Why do some people get so sick from COVID-19 and others don’t? One reason could be in genes

Coronavirus

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Aside from age and underlying health issues, scientists believe the answer to a lot questions about COVID-19 and how it affects people differently could be in their genes.

Now, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine is helping to lead an international team to learn if genetics plays a role into why some people with the coronavirus get severely ill and even die, while others have no symptoms.

“We think that variation in genes controls how we respond to SARS-Co-V-2,” said Dr. Paul Norman, an associate professor in the Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine and a principal investigator at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Norman, along with about 600 researchers in 45 countries, is part of The COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative, a collaborative scientific effort to “generate, share, analyze and data” to learn more about the coronavirus.

In Colorado, Norman is sending a questionnaire to 140,000 people who are part of the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine Biobank. His goal is to look at the genetic makeup of people who have had COVID-19 to see if there’s a connection.

He and other researchers are also getting data from 23andMe, an at-home genetic test, and the National Bone Marrow Registry.

Researchers have discovered genetic connections with HIV, malaria and the SARS virus from 2002 and 2003.

“There are variances that don’t make you less susceptible, but they make your immune response better,” Norman said.

If researchers discover genetic variances with the coronavirus, they could ultimately help develop a drug to treat it and a vaccine to prevent it.

The Biobank is accepting participants for the COVID-19 and other studies. Learn more about it here.

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