New Saudi study aims to map genetic links to COVID-19

KACST in partnership with Weqaya aim to understand the differing levels of severity in COVID-19 cases among Saudis by focusing on the genetic sequence of disease carriers.

  
A manager wearing protective gloves checks the temprature of a worker following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) upon his arrival to the restaurant, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2020.

A manager wearing protective gloves checks the temprature of a worker following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) upon his arrival to the restaurant, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2020.

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

RIYADH: A new initiative to study and identify genetic factors that cause symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among Saudis has been launched as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to tackle the pandemic.

King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in partnership with the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) aim to understand the differing levels of severity in COVID-19 cases among Saudis by focusing on the genetic sequence of disease carriers.

“The initiative will contribute in building national genetic databases in cooperation with the health sector and developing solutions and strategic plans to protect the population of the Kingdom and those most at risk of contracting the disease, in addition to increasing the efficiency of current treatment methods and the development of new drugs,” said Dr. Anas bin Faris Al-Faris, chief of KACST.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Quweizani, CEO of Weqaya, pointed out that the project was an extension of a number of initiatives to identify genetic characteristics that caused varying responses to COVID-19 infection among patients and help protect those most vulnerable to the disease.

The latest study forms part of the Saudi Human Genome Program launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to draw up the first genetic map of Saudi society, and develop an integrated, interactive information system in cooperation with universities, research centers and hospitals to limit the spread of genetic diseases.

The Kingdom is one of 10 countries in the 100,000 Genomes Club, which initiated the launch of a national program aimed at collecting, storing and applying genomic data of at least 100,000 genomes.

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