Can Genes Explain Why Coronavirus Seriously Sickens Some And Spares Others?

Caused by a virus dubbed HIV, AIDs has since infected and killed millions of people around the world.

In the mid-90s, researchers found that a variation of a gene called CCR5 made some people resistant to the virus.

Why do some young and otherwise healthy people get gravely ill, while others have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all? Might the answer be in our genes?

A host of studies aims to tap the genetic information of thousands of people to find out.

Older people with pre-existing health conditions, including asthma and lung disease, cardiac disease, diabetes, and immune conditions are most at risk.

In the general population there’s a wide range of how sick people get.

There are accounts of young and seemingly healthy people admitted to the ICU, while others-scientists don’t know how many yet-have no symptoms at all.

Some people get moderately sick with a dry cough, fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

While studies into how genes bend the course of a disease would have once taken years, we’re nearing a time when they can yield answers faster to bring more targeted care.

How might DNA play a role in how sick Covid-19 makes people?

It may be that some people’s genes produce protein “Locks” that are harder for Covid-19 to pick, or that regulatory genes are slowing the production of ACE2.

Though such tests look at only a fraction of a genome-using a process called genotyping-23andMe has the genetic data of over 10 million people on file.

This approach would most likely find common gene variants shared by many people, but it may miss less common variants that more complete gene sequences would capture.

“There are long-standing studies, involving hundreds of thousands of people, and other smaller ones collecting data on patients who test positive,” Ganna told the BBC. “It’s such a huge diversity and there are a lot of countries involved, and we will try to centralize it.”

The biobank has biological samples and health information for 500,000 people and plans to collect and add Covid-19 information to the database.

DeCODE Genetics, an Icelandic company, has the genetic and health data of over half of Iceland’s population and is also testing people for Covid-19.