News posted 13 May, 2020

MFT joins fight against Coronavirus in ground-breaking new genome sequencing study

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MFT has continued its contribution to the global fight against Coronavirus by enrolling patients in a ground-breaking new study of the virus.

The GenOMICC study, announced by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, today, will help researchers better understand the virus’ varied effects on people and support the search for treatments.

As of 12 May, 35 COVID-19 patients being cared for in MFT hospitals have taken part in the ‘Genetics Of susceptibility and Mortality In Critical Care’ (GenOMICC) study. This means we are in the top three of UK sites recruiting to GenOMICC during the last 14 days

The global, observational study is seeking to identify the specific genes that cause some people to be susceptible to certain infections and consequences of severe injury. The study is being performed by the GenOMICC Study Consortium – led by the University of Edinburgh – in partnership with Genomics England.

It involves patients consenting for a blood sample to be taken, from which their DNA extracted and then analysed by researchers. Patients’ samples will always be under the control of the GenOMICC investigators and subject to UK regulations.

Although the GenOMICC Consortium has been recruiting patients with emerging infections since 2016, this has now been expanded to include COVID-19 hospital patients, and the study is on the NIHR list of nationally-prioritised COVID-19 research.

At our hospital trust, all patients in critical care with confirmed COVID-19 are eligible to take part in GenOMICC. Dr Peter Alexander; a Consultant in Adult Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthesia, is leading GenOMICC at Wythenshawe Hospital, while Dr Craig Brandwood; a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, is the study lead for Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI).

Dr Brandwood said: “I’d like to take this opportunity thank all our participants who have consented to take part in the GenOMICC study so far.

“Susceptibility to COVID-19 is almost certainly, in part, genetic – and the aim of this study is to find the genes that cause susceptibility. Determining this may help the prioritisation of treatments to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The study is the largest of its kind in the world and aims to sample and sequence 100,000 DNA samples from patients with critical illnesses.

Dr Alexander said: “Our genes determine how susceptible we are to life-threatening infection.

“We know that when a patient is already sick, different genetic factors have an impact on survival rates. But this is particularly pertinent in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, where we are seeing a large majority of patients displaying mild or no symptoms, while a smaller percentage experience severe illness and require hospital care.

“We are therefore very pleased to be able to enrol COVID-19 patients in GenOMICC; because if we can identify the specific genes that cause some people to be susceptible to severe infection, this may help us to use existing treatments better and enable the design of new treatments to help people survive.”

The GenOMICC study is funded by research charity, the Wellcome Trust, and is sponsored by NHS Lothian, a Scottish healthcare trust. Read more on the GenOMICC website.

A number of other COVID-19 studies are taking place at MFT, read more on our Research and Innovation website.