Genetic factors play important roles in the progression various diseases, including cancer, heart disease and, pertinently, viral infections.
The UK has seen over 33,000 deaths and 220,000 recorded cases of COVID-19. Understanding the genetic factors that drive susceptibility to this disease would assist in directing treatment and preventing further fatalities.
In a recent report by the Office of National Statistics, it was observed that individuals of different ethnic groups experienced diverging risks of dying from COVID-19. These figures found that, even when correcting for socioeconomic factors, age, regional factors and pre-existing health conditions, black men were almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than their white contemporaries. Varying levels of risk were found among a number of different ethnic groups.
Genetic studies such as these are vitally important to help us understand the subtle factors underlying the differences in susceptibility among the public. An improved ability to identify those most at risk can help in providing greater care to those most in need.
Researchers are to study the genetic codes of severely-ill Covid-19 patients to find out why the disease affects some people more than others. The Edinburgh University-led programme will identify the specific genes that cause a predisposition to the disease. It will allow the genome sequencing of up 20,000 people who have been in intensive care with Covid-19, and 15,000 who have mild symptoms.