Coronavirus patients in Milton Keynes are taking part in a human genome study

Coronavirus patients at Milton Keynes Hospital have signed up to take part in a major study into why the disease affects people differently.

Across the country up to 20,000 people who are or have been in intensive care will have their genetic code studied to help scientists understand susceptibility to the virus.

This research may help explain why some patients with coronavirus experience a mild infection, others require intensive care and why some patients die.

Milton Keynes Hospital has confirmed that some 14 patients in the city have so far signed up to take part in the study.

As well as the 20,000 people either in or who have been in 160 intensive care units, the study will involve 15,000 people who have mild or moderate symptoms.

The project is backed by £28 million from Genomics England, UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care and the National Institute for Health Research.

Facilitated by the University of Edinburgh and NHS hospitals, the study will support the search for treatments by identifying those most at risk and helping to fast-track new therapies into clinical trials.

Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, said:  “As each day passes we are learning more about this virus, and understanding how genetic make-up may influence how people react to it is a critical piece of the jigsaw.”

The study ultimately aims to recruit every single covid-19 patient who is admitted to intensive care in the UK.

Patients will only be enrolled in the study if they, or their next of kin, have given their consent.

DNA samples have so far been collected from almost 2,000 patients.

Dr Kenneth Baillie, chief investigator at the University of Edinburgh, leading this study, said: “Our genes play a role in determining who becomes desperately sick with infections like covid-19. Understanding these genes will help us to choose treatments for clinical trials.”

Find out how to register interest to take part in the GenOMICC study visit www.genomicsengland.co.uk/covid-19/