Over the past year, the world went through a tremendous change upon the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic brought anxiety and pain that reshaped nearly all aspects of our lives. Zoom meetings, online class rooms and remote working are no longer foreign terms to us.

One of the many changes brought by COVID-19 is that people have become more aware of personal hygiene. Preventive measures such as wearing masks and washing hands are now daily habits, while physical activities to enhance immunity and tracking health conditions have become bigger parts of our lives. Unfortunately, infections do occur despite strict prevention preautions. The COVID-19 symptoms vary from no-symptoms to flu-like symptoms, pneumonia symptoms and can even lead to death.

Geneticists point out that among many other factors, genes play a role in COVID-19 susceptibility and severity of symptoms. In this regard, Genoplan added new items to its gene analysis algorithm to report susceptibility to COVID-19 infections and the predictive severity and progression level of the virus if infected.

What is COVID-19?

The full name of the disease is 'Coronavirus disease-19', a disease spread by the virus called 'Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)'.

Until now, only 6 types of coronavirus have been known to infect people, but this time the virus that occurred in Wuhan, China, has been classified as a new coronavirus due to its novel properties. The corona virus that infect humans can be divided into two types - one that causes flu symptoms, and another that causes severe respiratory diseases. The SARS and MERS virus that once spread anxiety across the world belong to the latter type. The new coronavirus is a variant of SARS-CoV, and the official name is SARV-CoV-2.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus can spread from the infected person in respitory droplets or aerosols. Activities such as sneezing, coughing, speaking or singing can send out respitory droplets or aerosols with the virus to people who come into close contact, typically within 2 meters.

People may also become infected by shaking hands with infected people or touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus when touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands. The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated areas such as in coffee shops, indoor gyms, bars and small crowded indoor settings. People can be infected with the virus if they spent time with an infected person in such places or go to such places right after an infected person made a visit.

How can COVID-19 be prevented?

The best preventive measure against COVID-19 is to practise good personal hygiene habits. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water for more than 30 seconds. In circumstances where you can't wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60-80% alcohol concentration. If you have to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a mask, a tissue, a handkerchief, or simply with your sleeves. Avoid small, poorly-ventilated, crowded indoor spaces and keep a safe distance of 1 to 2 meters from others. Frequent ventilations lower the risk of infections. Avoid traveling from or to places where the virus has spread. If you are not feeling well, stay home and take a rest. See a doctor if you experience symptoms such as fever, coughing, or breathing difficulties.

What can I learn from the new reports?

The GWAS, Genome Wide Association Analysis, was conducted by many scientists in order to identify the genetic factor that play a role in catching COVID-19. In this analysis, from the group of people exposed to the same environment, the SNP (Single-nucleotide polymorphism) of people who caught the virus and those who didn't were compared. A unique SNP has also been identified which is commonly found among those who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 infections and suffered severely from it.

Genoplan has collected great amounts of relevant research articles and created an algorithm to predict the genetic risks of the susceptibility to COVID-19 infections and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms based on the collected gene data (SNPs). Your testing results on the COVID-19 items can be found under the 'COVID-19 Infection' and 'Severity of COVID-19 Symptoms' category reports.

Today, vaccines to COVID-19 have been developed and many countries are vaccinating their residents. Vaccinations reduce the risk of infections and also lower the risk of the COVID-19 to progress into severe diseases.

The most effective preventive measure, however, remains to be maintaining good personal hygiene. Let's do our best and stay strong until the pandemic comes to an end!