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ATTR Amyloidosis Could Increase Risk of Severe COVID-19

Posted on September 27, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Todd Gersten, M.D.
Article written by
Maureen McNulty

  • A panel of 25 amyloidosis experts met virtually to talk about how COVID-19 could affect those with wild-type ATTR or hereditary ATTR amyloidosis.
  • People with amyloidosis may be more likely to become very sick or die when they develop COVID-19.
  • Those living with amyloidosis should work with their doctors to try to avoid treatment interruptions that may be caused by the pandemic.

As cases of COVID-19 rise throughout the world, people with chronic health conditions like amyloidosis will want to know whether they are at risk for serious health problems. An article published on May 6 in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, which summarizes the results from a medical roundtable discussion on amyloidosis, explains that COVID-19 may be more severe in people with amyloidosis.

In May 2020, a virtual meeting was held to discuss the impact of the pandemic on people with amyloidosis. Twenty-five doctors from 10 countries attended the meeting.

These experts focused on the two types of amyloidosis caused by the transthyretin (TTR) protein. During wild-type ATTR amyloidosis, the body makes too much TTR. Hereditary ATTR amyloidosis is caused by mutant TTR proteins. In both cases, TTR proteins clump together, forming amyloid deposits that build up in tissues.

The experts at the roundtable agreed that people with ATTR amyloidosis are more likely to develop serious health problems and have a higher chance of death when they are infected with COVID-19. Because ATTR amyloidosis is rare, researchers have not yet been able to conduct studies that specifically analyze this issue. However, experts believe that people with amyloidosis are at risk based on several pieces of evidence.

First, the article's authors noted that people with both types of ATTR amyloidosis often have risk factors that can lead to problems when they catch COVID-19. Many people with amyloidosis are older, and COVID-19 is often more severe in older adults. Additionally, ATTR amyloidosis leads to damage in multiple organs and tissues, including the heart, nerves, kidneys, and digestive system organs. COVID-19 can also affect the lungs, heart, and kidneys. The authors believe that when organ problems are already present, COVID-19 may cause further damage.

Other research has shown that comorbidities can be a problem for people with COVID-19. Comorbidities are two or more health conditions that occur at the same time. COVID-19 is more likely to be severe when it develops in people who already have other health conditions, including heart and kidney problems.

The authors noted that the pandemic has led to increased restrictions that sometimes make it difficult to continue diagnosing and treating amyloidosis. However, they noted that people with ATTR amyloidosis should work with their doctors to receive consistent treatment. Taking a break from a treatment plan may make amyloidosis worse. The authors suggested that telemedicine or home care programs could help ensure that people continue to receive proper treatment.

People with ATTR amyloidosis should talk to their doctors about how to stay safe and follow steps like masking, social distancing, and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in order to protect against infection. The authors wrote, “Overall, physicians from all specialties concluded that patients with ATTR amyloidosis who develop COVID-19 have a higher risk of mortality, due to age and other comorbidities.”

Read about COVID-19 vaccines for people with amyloidosis.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Todd Gersten, M.D. is a hematologist-oncologist at the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute in Wellington, Florida. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. Learn more about her here.

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