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Research Team supports important genetic study into severe COVID-19

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Research Team supports important genetic study into severe COVID-19
06 May 2022

Our Research Team have supported the world’s largest study of the genetics of critical COVID-19.

The study involving more than 57,000 people worldwide, has revealed fresh details about some of the biological mechanisms behind the severe form of the disease.

Researchers from the GenOMICC (Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care) consortium – a global collaboration to study genetics in critical illness – led by University of Edinburgh in partnership with Genomics England, made these discoveries by sequencing the genomes of 7,491 patients from 224 intensive care units in the UK.

Professor Kenneth Baillie, Consultant in Critical Care Medicine at the University of Edinburgh said: “Our latest findings point to specific molecular targets in critical Covid-19. These results explain why some people develop life-threatening COVID-19, while others get no symptoms at all. But more importantly, this gives us a deep understanding of the process of disease and is a big step forward in finding more effective treatments.

“It is now true to say that we understand the mechanisms of Covid better than the other syndromes we treat in intensive care in normal times – sepsis, flu, and other forms of critical illness. Covid-19 is showing us the way to tackle those problems in the future.”

Dr Gabor Debreceni, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at Isle of Wight NHS Trust said: said: "The GenOMICC study enables the comparison of genomes from critically ill patients with population controls in order to find underlying disease mechanisms.

“Our Intensive Care Unit started to enrol patients onto this study from May 2020 and the last patient was recruited in September 2021. In total 59 of our patients took part which is an amazing achievement by the small Research Team.  

“Members of the St. Mary’s Hospital team including Dr Alexander Moss, Dr Azra Khatun, Dr Luke Sylvester, Dr Henry Barrington-White and Vikki Crickmore, Consultant Nurse played a crucial role in taking consent and enrolling patients into this project.

“In addition, research nurses Joy Wilkins and Alison Brown with the support of research officer Sarah Knight tirelessly collected the blood samples and worked on forms which is the most labour-intensive part of the study.

“Everyone involved went the extra mile to provide support for this study despite of the challenges during the peak of the pandemic and as a result, numerous drug developments were started which will hopefully contribute to the successful treatment of COVID-19 in the future.”

The DNA of participating Island patients was compared with 48,400 other people who had not had Covid-19, participants in Genomics England's 100,000 Genomes Project and that of a further 1,630 people who had experienced mild Covid.

Determining the whole genome sequence for all participants in the study allowed the team to create a precise map and identify genetic variation linked to severity of Covid-19. The team found key differences in 16 genes in the ICU patients when compared with the DNA of the other groups.

These findings will now act as a roadmap for future efforts, opening new fields of research focused on potential new therapies and diagnostics with pinpoint accuracy.

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