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Recently, social interactions, shaped by religious denomination, have been related to COVID-19 associated mortality in Western Germany. The number of infections and deaths during the early pandemic phase was higher in predominantly Catholic countries with stronger family and social ties. Catholics have tighter and more frequent interactions with their family and friends. Intensity of social interaction partially explained the relationship between COVID-19 incidence and the share of Catholics at country level. To test this hypothesis, we compared the relationship between the COVID-19 religious denomination with genetic confounders. Religious geography is partly explained by historical facts, which are associated with genographics. The pronounced geographical variation in prevalence and mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic has also been linked to genetic variability. The question arises if the relationship between religion and COVID-19 is independent from an underlying genetic variation of the host. We previously showed that the variability in genotype distribution of some human polymorphisms also partly explains the variable geographical prevalence of COVID-19. COVID-19 mortality data from several European countries were studied. Data on the geographical variation of some human plasma protein polymorphisms were collected. In a first analysis, COVID-19 mortality of the 11 Dutch provinces was plotted against COVID-19 mortality. A striking relationship between COVID-19 mortality and the percentage of catholics in the population was found: y (COVID-19 mortality/100.000 inhabitants) = 0.891 (% catholics) +3.120 ; r2= 0.907. This relationship was confirmed in a multiple regression model. When investigating European COVID-19 prevalence in a multiple regression analysis model (including the religious denomination, the prevalence of COVID-19 significantly correlated with ACE1 polymorphism. The log-transformed mortality of COVID-19 in 22 countries (April 30, 2020) negatively correlated with the ACE D allele frequency: log (COVID-19 mortality; no. of cases/106 inhabitants)= 5.567 -0.05 (D-allele frequency, %) + 0.0156 (% catholics), r2=0.623; p=0.0001. The p value for the D-allele frequency was 0.02 (vs. 0.668 for the religious denomination). Although data in the Netherlands seem to support the thesis that religious denomination can be related to COVID-19 associated mortality as in neighbouring Germany, this observation could not be expanded to a larger European context. The 1555 Peace of Augsburg changed the scenery for the coexistence of Lutheranism and Catholicism. The 1648 Peace of Westphalia prohibited converting rulers to force-convert their subjects and by determining the official religion to the status of 1624 as a normative year. Regional distribution between Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism remained stable over time. Our data plead for a role of genetics rather than of religious denomination in COVID-19 associated mortality.  

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This page is a summary of: COVID-19 related mortality and religious denomination vs. genetics, Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM), May 2022, De Gruyter,
DOI: 10.1515/cclm-2022-0393.
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