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U of Edinburgh Study to Use Consumer Genomics Data to Determine COVID-19 Genetic Risk

NEW YORK—The University of Edinburgh has launched a trial that will recruit individuals worldwide to determine why some who catch COVID-19 are asymptomatic while others become extremely ill.

In the study, called Coronagenes, the researchers aim to identify genes that influence the risk of developing COVID-19 and those that affect disease severity by comparing volunteers' symptoms and genetic data.

By launching an online survey, the team hopes COVID-19 patients who have used consumer DNA testing services, such as Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, will share their data to identify key genes involved in the body's reaction to COVID-19. The survey will ask patients about their health, lifestyle, and visible symptoms, or lack of symptoms, they have experienced.  ­

Volunteers who have not used the testing services will also be able to provide the trial with their DNA once current lockdown restrictions have been relaxed.

The researchers believe that updating the survey before, during, and after an infection will help identify patterns that might show how the virus progresses. The study also aims to analyze the long-term health consequences of COVID-19 infection and self-isolation.

"Some people suffer no ill effects from [the] coronavirus infection, yet others require intensive care," Jim Wilson, the study co-leader and a professor of human genetics at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. "We need to identify the genes causing this susceptibility so we can understand the biology of the virus and hence develop better drugs to fight it."

Ancestry and 23andMe have separately also requested their users to contribute genotyping and health data to genetic research efforts focused on SARS-CoV-2.