Genomics of COVID-19: A Collaboration with the International COVID Human Genome Effort Consortium

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Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2) is a novel human pathogen responsible for COVID-19. Risk factors including older age as well as pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease have been associated with severe, sometimes lethal, manifestations of COVID-19. However, factors contributing to severe COVID-19 in the subset of young, previously healthy individuals remain unknown.

Led by Christen Ebens, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics; and Meghan Rothenberger, MD, associate profesor of internal medicine, researchers in this study will use genomic sequencing to identify rare single gene variants associated with poor outcome in patients 50 years of age and younger without known risk factors for COVID-19. They will collect basic clinical information and blood samples from affected patients and, when possible, their first-degree relatives.

Their collaborator, Megan Cooper, MD, PhD, at the Washington University McDonnell Genome Institute in St. Louis, MO, will complete genomic sequencing of de-identified samples from severe COVID-19 patients and first-degree relatives in the context of the large, international consortium The COVID Human Genome Effort.

Ebens and Rothenberger say identifying host genetic factors associated with susceptibility to this novel pathogen and worse COVID-19 outcomes can provide insight into the human immune response to SARS-CoV2, and highlight molecular pathways that could be targeted to COVID-19.

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.