Family historians are being urged to submit the results of their home DNA tests to a new University of Edinburgh study on the effects of coronavirus.
Coronagenes is a new project that hopes to use volunteers’ DNA to identify why some people who catch the disease have no symptoms while others become very ill.
Understanding the effects genes have on susceptibility to coronavirus could aid efforts to tackle the pandemic and help combat future disease outbreaks.
Professor Albert Tenesa, co-lead on the study, said: “Time is of the essence.
“To identify the genes that explain why some people get very sick from coronavirus and others don’t, we need the solidarity of a large proportion of people from different countries who can share their DNA testing results with us.
“In this case, size really matters.”
According to the World Health Organisation, 80% of coronavirus infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infections requiring oxygen, and 5% are critical infections requiring ventilation.
Professor Jim Wilson, co-lead of the study, said: “We need to identify the genes causing this susceptibility, so we can understand the biology of the virus and hence develop better drugs to fight it.”
The Coronagenes study is open to anyone over 16, but participants who already have DNA test data to submit are important because they will help speed up the research process.
Volunteers will complete online questionnaires about their health, lifestyle and any symptoms they have experienced.
Volunteers who have not had the disease or any symptoms are just as important as those who have.
Volunteers who have tested their DNA with Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage can upload their test results straight away, while those who have not will be asked to provide a saliva sample via post once UK lockdown measures have lifted.
Those who develop coronavirus symptoms will also be asked to complete daily surveys.
Coronagenes is funded by the Medical Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation, and Health Data Research UK.
Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine