Thus DNA samples will be collected from some 20 000 Covid-19 patients currently or previously in intensive care units. Also, 15 000 samples patients who had mild or moderate symptoms will be examined.
The study will be done by Edinburgh University and several NHS hospitals, with the backing of the UK government, Genomics England and the Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care consortium of researchers.
The DNA samples from patients in 170 intensive care units will be taken to understand why predominantly men or otherwise healthy die people from the disease. In England and Wales, males die at twice the rate of females, according to the Office for National Statistics.
“It’s becoming increasingly likely that a person’s genetic makeup plays a big role in susceptibility in terms of how effectively they can mount an immune response, and how durable that immunity is,” said David Bentley, chief scientist at Illumina, the biotech firm involved in the study. “We already know one route of entry of the virus into human cells and this is subject to genetic variation, just as was the case in HIV infection.”
Sue Hill, chief scientific officer for genomics at NHS England, said the study had the potential to “dramatically improve our understanding” of Covid-19.
“It could help us to identify whether underlying genomic differences play a part in how people react to the virus and why some people have few or no symptoms while others can get very ill,” she said.