Welsh patients are set to take part in a groundbreaking study to explore whether a person’s genetics may influence their susceptibility to coronavirus.
The GenOMICC study, announced by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on May 13, will involve 20,000 patients who are severely ill with Covid-19 – including 100 from Wales.
These people, many of whom are in intensive care, will have their genetic code studied and compared with those who have much milder symptoms.
The scientists’ aim is to understand whether a person’s genetics may influence how unwell they can get from the virus.
Researchers claim the data will help improve our knowledge of the virus’ varied effects on people and support the search for treatments.
Professor Kieran Walshe, director of Health and Care Research Wales – which is coordinating study set-up and recruitment in Wales – said: “It is vital that we learn as much about Covid-19 as possible so that we can provide the most effective treatments and care for all patients.
“This groundbreaking research may help us to find out why some patients experience a mild infection, while others need intensive care treatment and why some sadly die.
“Through research, we can discover the evidence needed to give all patients the best possible outcome.”
Patients are being recruited from Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff and Vale, Cwm Taf Morgannwg, Swansea Bay, Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda University Health Boards.
The data collected by health boards in Wales and others will be compared to that from a further 15,000 Covid-19 patients who experienced only mild symptoms.
Matt Morgan, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the University Hospital of Wales
(Image: Matt Morgan)
Dr Matt Morgan, Health and Care Research Wales specialty lead for critical care in Wales, said: “We should all be very proud that despite the immense challenges, intensive care units throughout Wales have been leading contributors to research trials aimed at understanding Covid-19.
“Saving lives requires not just ventilators and hospital beds, but high-quality research done collaboratively.
“Without this research, we will not be able to understand, prevent or treat life threatening diseases including Covid-19. Research matters, now more than ever.”
The study is being led by the partnership between the GenOMICC Study Consortium, led by the University of Edinburgh, and Genomics England.
Dr Kenneth Baillie, chief investigator on the GenOMICC study, said: “Our genes play a role in determining who becomes desperately sick with infections like Covid-19.
“Understanding these genes will help us to choose treatments for clinical trials. The GenOMICC study has been running since 2016, and has been investigating genetic factors that impact how patients fare in response to a number of severe illnesses.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, and with the tremendous support of the UK critical care community, the study has expanded and accelerated enormously, and we are now recruiting in over 170 ICUs across the country.
“I am delighted to be working with Health and Care Research Wales to deliver this important work.”