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Acid reflux sufferers may be more at risk of getting Covid – study finds why

Dr Zoe explains the causes and symptoms of acid reflux

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Many people get acid reflux from time to time. There’s often no obvious reason why this happens, according to the NHS. Some factors, including certain foods and smoking, can make it worse. The new study from Berghofer Medical Research Institute found that people with acid reflux are more vulnerable to developing coronavirus.

The Queensland study discovered genes that cause the digestive disease can also be linked to COVID-19.

These genes can cause a 15 percent increase in the risk of severe coronavirus and hospitalisation.

If your acid reflux keeps happening, it’s called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), the NHS reports.

The new study looked at genes predicted to cause GORD.

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QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute researcher Doctor Jue-Sheng Ong said observational studies had indicated an association between GORD and COVID-19.

This link was traced to common risk factors including obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Doctor Ong said: “We found that genes predicted to cause GORD were linked with a 15 per cent increase in the risk of severe COVID-19 and hospitalisation.

“We then used statistical modelling to test whether common risk factors could be driving the association.”

The study looked at large-scale genetic data from the UK Biobank, QIMR Berghofer’s QSkin study and The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative.

“Our analysis ultimately found that obesity explained part of the relationship between GORD and COVID-19 risk, but it didn’t explain all of it,” the researcher said.

“These findings suggest GORD could potentially play a direct causal role in increasing the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation.”

The study was aided by other QIMR Berghofer research, which had identified new genes linked to acid reflux, published earlier this year.

The researchers have found 88 genes or genetic markers linked to whether a person gets acid reflux or doesn’t.

These findings allowed the researchers to take “the next step”.

However, there’s more research needed to investigate whether the increased risk of severe Covid and hospitalisation is related to GORD or to treatments used after being diagnosed with acid reflux.

The study was led by QIMR Berghofer’s Professor Stuart MacGregor and funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

In case you’re not sure, here are the main acid reflux symptoms:

  • Heartburn (burning sensation in the middle of your chest)
  • Unpleasant sour taste in the mouth caused by stomach acid.

You may also be experiencing cough or hiccups, hoarse voice, bad breath and bloating.

The NHS reports that symptoms of acid reflux might get worse after eating, when you lie down and when you bend over.

Speak to a pharmacist if this problem is recurring, they might recommend medicines called antacids that can help with easing symptoms.

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