The Hunt for Covid-19 The secret to why some people get so sick from covid could lie in their genes |



23andMe is searching for genetic clues to why some get sick from Covid-19 and others don't even have symptoms.

by Antonio Regalado

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While it is known that older people and those with health conditions such as diabetes are most at risk, there could be hidden genetic reasons why some young, previously healthy people are also dying.  

23andMe operates a large gene database with more than 8 million customers, many of whom have agreed to let their data be used for research. The company has previously used consumer data to power searches for the genetic roots of insomnia, homosexuality, and other traits. 

In April the company, based in Sunnyvale, California, sent covid-19 questionnaires out to a swath of its members. So far, says a company spokesman, about 400,000 have enrolled, including 6,000 who say they have confirmed cases of the pandemic disease.

The 23andMe gene hunt will complement efforts from university researchers to obtain genetic profiles of covid-19 cases and pair them with detailed medical records, says Andrea Ganna, who coordinates the Covid-19 Host Genetic Initiative. The international consortium is sharing genetic data on covid-19 cases from Italy, the UK, and the US and regularly making results public. 23andMe has an enormous database of genomic information at it's command.



Scientists hope to find a gene that strongly influences, or even determines, how badly people are affected by the coronavirus. There are well-known examples of such genetic effects on other diseases: for example, sickle-cell genes confer resistance to malaria, and variants of other genes are known to protect people from HIV or to norovirus, an intestinal germ.

According to Ganna, however, an initial peek at the genes of 900 covid-19 cases turned up no significant genetic hits. His consortium is now preparing an analysis of twice as many cases, which could improve their chance of spotting an association.

Over the counter testing company Ancestry  has recruited 250,000 participants from its own database for the same evaluation.

In the meantime the search for The Vaccine is ongoing.  Click on link below: