U.K. will study the DNA of COVID-19 patients to learn why some get sicker than others

Researchers in France sequence COVID-19 genome
(Image credit: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

Researchers at Scotland's University of Edinburgh and colleagues around the United Kingdom have launched a project to learn crucial information about the new coronavirus by sequencing the genomes of 20,000 severely ill COVID-19 patients and 15,000 Britons with milder symptoms. The project, a collaboration with the National Health Service and Genomics England, seeks to understand why some patients get hit harder with the disease and use that knowledge to help find or develop treatments.

More than 2,000 patients have already donated DNA to the project, which has secured 28 million pounds ($34 million) in funding. "Our genes play a role in determining who becomes desperately sick with infections like COVID-19," Dr. Kenneth Baillie, the University of Edinburgh critical care physician leading the investigation, told BBC News. "Understanding these genes will help us to choose treatments for clinical trials." Among the questions the researchers hope to answer is why men get sick and die from COVID-19 at much higher rates and why some children develop sometimes-fatal toxic shock symptoms.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.