In the summer of 2020, CCS researchers partnered with Jill Hollenbach, Associate Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF, to connect with Be The Match, the world’s largest bone marrow registry. When patients join Be The Match, a cheek swab is used to collect DNA, and this is added to a database with the purpose of identifying a genetic “match” for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant. Be The Match registry patients who had high quality data available for a particular section of DNA (human leukocyte antigen (HLA)) were invited to further their contribution to medical research by joining the COVID-19 Citizen Science study.
Combining the data from Be The Match and CCS allowed researchers in the Hollenbach Lab to explore patterns in participant’s genetic material that might relate to COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes. An exciting discovery was made: the presence of a common immune variant, called HLA-B*15:01, was found to have a strong association with asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. This means that people who have particular genetic coding at this specific location on chromosome 6 seem to be less likely to exhibit symptoms when infected with COVID-19.
This is important because the more we know about why some infected people have symptoms, while others have none, the better prepared the medical community can be to treat the disease early.
Read the preprint here: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.13.21257065v1