Do Genetics Determine How COVID-19 Affects Us? Study of Twins Suggests Such a Possibility

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A new study of twins by a London college has determined that how someone responds to the novel coronavirus may be based on genetics. 

The study, which was done by researchers at King’s College London, evaluated 2,633 pairs of identical and fraternal twins who came down with the COVID-19 and tracked their symptoms through the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app they created. The app, which was launched last month and uses machine-based algorithms, includes data from 2.7 million people, according to a report in the pre-publication server MedRix.

The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

“The idea was to basically look at the similarities in symptoms or non-symptoms between the identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, and the non-identical twins, who only share half of their genes,” King’s College London Professor Tim Spector, one of the researchers, told the Guardian.

The researchers asked twins to upload and track their coronavirus symptoms on the app and then analyzed the data, also taking into account whether the twins lived in the same household and whether or not they had come into contact with one another.

Researchers determined genes were 50 percent responsible for whether or not someone would have certain coronavirus symptoms, like fever, diarrhea, or loss of taste and smell. While other symptoms of the virus like cough, chest pain, or lack of appetite, had nothing to do with genes. Those symptoms were attributed to factors like surrounding environment, according to the study.

“This disease is very weird, the way it has a very different presentation in the population in different people — what we are showing is that isn’t random,” Spector told the Guardian. “It is not mainly due to where you live or who you have seen; a lot of it is something innate about you.

Researchers hope their findings will be able to help predict who is at most risk for COVID-19 based on genetics. 

“It reassures everyone that it is worth exploring this whole triangle of genes, immune system and gut microbes,” Spector added.

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