Mara Dierssen leads an international study on COVID-19 and Down syndrome

By April 20, 2020CRG

Professor Mara Dierssen (Group Leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), a BIST centre) is leading an international study on COVID-19 and Down syndrome.

A new study has been launched in Catalonia by the Trisomy 21 Research Society (T21RS) to better understand the risk of coronavirus infection in people with Down syndrome and to provide appropriate recommendations to doctors and society in general. The study is led by Prof. Mara Dierssen, former President of the T21RS and current leader of the Cellular & Systems Neurobiology Group at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, a BIST centre in Barcelona. It aims to find out whether COVID-19 affects people with Down syndrome more intensely, what treatments have been most effective, and how many cases there are to date. The project is a massive international collaboration with institutes and clinics from Spain, the US, Asia, Latin America and other European countries participating.

The first phase of the project involves collecting data about existing cases through surveys given to affected families. Surveys ask about family members with Down syndrome who have also tested positive for COVID-19, what treatments they have received, and what drugs they have taken before and after being diagnosed.

Seven hospitals are participating in the project through providing information about the positive cases in the various autonomous regions of Spain. Among these are the Alzheimer-Down unit of Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona and the Fundació Catalana Síndrome de Down in Barcelona, which is also collaborating with the La Caixa Foundation to study the links between Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome, another key aspect of the project.

To date, 50 cases have been found in Spain, with another 100 cases likely to be identified soon, according to Prof. Dierssen, meaning that she will be able to start identifying common factors among these cases very soon.

The study also analyzes how being confined affects people with Down syndrome, and how they deal with stressful scenarios such as going to the hospital. Getting more insight into these factors will help inform medical staff at hospitals and clinics about how best to treat patients with Down syndrome and COVID-19.

The study, which is just getting started, will remain open as long as new positive cases of COVID-19 continue to come in.