Why do some fit and healthy people become so ill with COVID?

Some people become very severely ill with COVID-19 and end up in hospital, but most people only experience mild illness.

We know that a variety of factors – such as being older, male, having another health condition, being from an ethnic minority, being in certain occupations, and more – all play a part in how sick people become. But scientific research has shown that even when all these factors are taken into account, there is something else.

This ‘something else’ might help explain one of the biggest COVID puzzles of all: why some people who were young or previously fit and healthy ended up on intensive care whilst others, who we feared might become very ill, did OK.

GenOMICC study on COVID-19

Genomics England is working in partnership with the GenOMICC consortium, led by the University of Edinburgh, to analyse the whole genome sequences of approximately 20,000 people who have been severely affected by COVID-19. By severely affected, we mean bad enough to require admission to intensive care. We need to compare these genomes with 15,000 other genomes, from people who were only mildly affected – not requiring hospitalisation – or had no symptoms at all.

So, we are currently looking for two types of volunteer to take part in the study:

  1. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, but did not need to be hospitalised for their symptoms
  2. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, had severe symptoms and were in intensive care

I want to help. What do you need from me?

You can help if you:

  • live in the UK
  • are over the age of 18
  • have tested positive for COVID-19 either via a viral swab test or a blood test for antibodies

Using the details you give on the form, we will check if you are eligible and we may invite you to take part in the study. If we do, we will need to collect a 9ml sample of your blood, equivalent to about 2 teaspoons. Unfortunately we are not currently able to use DNA kits that collect your saliva.

 Register your interest to help 

Thank you to everybody who has volunteered already to be part of the GenOMICC COVID-19 study. We will be in touch as soon as possible to let you know if you are eligible and explain the next steps in detail.

We are very lucky that we already have more than 120,000 genomes thanks to those that took part in the 100,000 Genomes Project. These provide an incredibly important pre-COVID reference set.