As many as 1.7 billion people, or more than a fifth of the world’s population, are at risk of developing a more severe form of Covid-19 due to “accompanying” diseases such as heart disease or overweight.
The new coronavirus, which has claimed more than 420,000 lives worldwide in the first wave of the pandemic, is severely affecting patients with significant comorbidity, or their underlying disease.
A group of scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzed global data on a range of diseases such as diabetes, lung disease and HIV to estimate how many people in the world have a predisposition to suffer from a more severe form of Covid-19.
They found that one in five people in the world has at least one underlying disease that puts them at greater risk for coronavirus infection.
Although not all of them will develop severe symptoms in the event of an infection, scientists predict that about 4% of the world’s population, or about 350 million people, are likely to end up in hospital.
“Countries are coming out of quarantine, and governments are looking for ways to protect those most vulnerable to the virus that is still circulating,” said study co-author Andrew Clark.
He added that the results of the study could help governments determine vaccination priorities when a vaccine for Covid-19 is found.
In line with the results of other studies, the authors concluded that the elderly are at greater risk of developing a more severe form of the disease.
Namely, less than 5% of the global population under the age of 20 has some associated risk factor compared to two-thirds of people over the age of 70. Doctors also warn that countries with high HIV rates should be especially careful.
The researchers conclude that the study shows that it is time for the approach, which is the same for everyone, to develop an approach that focuses more on people at higher risk of developing the more severe form of Covid-19.