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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A startup is developing a genetic test that could identify people at risk of an inflammatory overreaction to COVID-19.

Why it matters: If we can predict who might be in danger of a severe COVID-19 case, we can focus prevention and potentially treatment on those who might need it the most.

What's happening: Earlier this week, the biotech company GoodCell announced a program with the New York Blood Center to study how genetic variations in the blood can contribute to COVID-19 severity.

How it works: GoodCell offers personal biobanking, which allows customers to withdraw and store blood cells so they can potentially be used for treatments in the future, like CAR-T or stem cell therapy.

  • As part of that service, GoodCell has developed genetic tests to assess the quality of the donated cells, including certain mutations that are connected to an increase in risk for cardiovascular disease through abnormal inflammation.
  • Many severe cases of COVID-19, especially in younger patients, featured an inflammatory overreaction called a cytokine storm.
  • "We found parallels between patients getting sick from cytokine storms and the accumulated genetic changes connected to cardiovascular disease," says Salvatore Viscomi, chief medical officer at GoodCell.

By the numbers: A French study in July of 122 hospitalized COVID-19 patients found a correlation between the presence of the mutations and a higher likelihood of ending up on a ventilator.

  • GoodCell is working on its own clinical study on the question, with the aim of creating a test that could identify those genetic risk factors in the wider population.
  • "If you know you're at risk of getting more than the sniffles from [COVID-19], you would be more likely to change your behavior," says Viscomi.

Yes, but: COVID-19 is still a new disease, and it's likely that a variety of factors ultimately combine to determine the severity of an infection.

The bottom line: One of the biggest challenges of COVID-19 is just how varied its presentation is, from no symptoms at all to sudden death. But our genes may help predict the most likely outcome before we even get sick.

Go deeper

L.A. becomes first county to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases

COVID-19 mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County officials said Saturday they had detected the county's first case of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom.

Why it matters: The announcement came as L.A. became the first county to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, straining the area's already overwhelmed health care system.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

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