Can Genetics Prove COVID-19 Susceptibility?

Scientists from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) are working with colleagues around the world to better understand why young patients with no underlying health issues are contracting severe cases of COVID-19. The focus of their study? Genetics.

Jean-Laurent Casanova at The Rockefeller University is the head investigator of a large study seeking to enroll 500 participants. Participants must meet three requirements: be under the age of 50, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and admitted to an ICU, and not have any underlying illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease.

In the study, HHMI scientists will examine the DNA of participants to identify any genetic mutations that make certain individuals more susceptible to COVID-19. This video explains more about genetic predisposition:

Casanova and his team have been working with Chinese scientists from the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. He has been studying young adults and children without the standard risk factors. Now that there are more cases to study, Casanova and his team are optimistic they will find susceptibility answers in genetics.

The team has been successful before—finding genetic links and errors for diseases such as influenza pneumonitis, viral encephalitis, and tuberculosis. Even though Casanova can study the virus in real-time, he says his research won’t be conclusive for two or three more years.

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