BACKGROUND: Several common conditions have been widely recognised as risk factors for COVID-19 related death, but risks borne by people with rare diseases are largely unknown. Therefore, we aim to estimate the difference of risk for people with rare diseases comparing to the unaffected.

METHOD: To estimate the correlation between rare diseases and COVID-19 related death, we performed a retrospective cohort study in Genomics England 100k Genomes participants, who tested positive for Sars-Cov-2 during the first wave (16-03-2020 until 31-July-2020) of COVID-19 pandemic in the UK (n = 283). COVID-19 related mortality rates were calculated in two groups: rare disease patients (n = 158) and unaffected relatives (n = 125). Fisher's exact test and logistic regression was used for univariable and multivariable analysis, respectively.

RESULTS: People with rare diseases had increased risk of COVID19-related deaths compared to the unaffected relatives (OR [95% CI] = 3.47 [1.21- 12.2]). Although, the effect was insignificant after adjusting for age and number of comorbidities (OR [95% CI] = 1.94 [0.65-5.80]). Neurology and neurodevelopmental diseases was significantly associated with COVID19-related death in both univariable (OR [95% CI] = 4.07 [1.61-10.38]) and multivariable analysis (OR [95% CI] = 4.22 [1.60-11.08]).

CONCLUSIONS: Our results showed that rare disease patients, especially ones affected by neurology and neurodevelopmental disorders, in the Genomics England cohort had increased risk of COVID-19 related death during the first wave of the pandemic in UK. The high risk is likely associated with rare diseases themselves, while we cannot rule out possible mediators due to the small sample size. We would like to raise the awareness that rare disease patients may face increased risk for COVID-19 related death. Proper considerations for rare disease patients should be taken when relevant policies (e.g., returning to workplace) are made.


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Cite as

Zhang, H., Thygesen, J., Shi, T., Gkoutos, G., Hemingway, H., Guthrie, B., Wu, H. & Genomics England Research Consortium 2022, 'Increased COVID-19 mortality rate in rare disease patients: a retrospective cohort study in participants of the Genomics England 100,000 Genomes project', Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 17, article no: 166. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13023-022-02312-x

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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