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Search for Genetic Clues to COVID-19 Severity

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies 23andMe and Ancestry are turning to their customer base to study whether there is a genetic reason for why some people become gravely ill with COVID-19, while others have a more mild disease course, the Detroit Free Press reports.

"From the early days ... I think it was clear to all of us that some people were getting very, very sick when they were affected with coronavirus, and some people had hardly any symptoms at all," Catherine Ball, chief scientific officer at Ancestry, tells the Free Press

According to the paper, both 23andMe and Ancestry have been asking their customers if they are willing to participate in COVID-19 research, and 23andMe's Adam Auton tells it that about 600,000 people have opted into their study, of whom about 9,000 reported having tested positive for COVID-19. 

23andMe launched its project to study coronavirus severity in early April, as GenomeWeb reported at the time, and said it would be collecting monthly surveys from patients to ask about disease symptoms and outcomes. Ancestry similarly announced later in April their coronavirus study, which it said hoped would enable the development of preventive and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19, as GenomeWeb also reported.