Morehouse School of Medicine, UnitedHealth to study COVID-19 and sickle cell

Morehouse School of Medicine and a large healthcare provider have teamed up to study sickle cell and COVID-19.

According to a press release, Morehouse School of Medicine and UnitedHealth Group will determine if COVID-19 is more severe for people with the genetic blood disorder.

Officials noted, “COVID-19 have disproportionately impacted African Americans and other communities of color compared to the overall population. Sickle cell trait involves a genetic blood disorder estimated to be present in 1 in 12 African Americans. There is little information to date on how COVID-19 infections affect individuals with sickle cell trait.”

Researchers will enroll at least 300 adults who have sickle cell trait and are in the hospital at Grady Memorial Hospital for COVID-19, the release stated.

Planning for this study began in early April and opened for participation in May.

Morehouse outlined the following plan for the research:

  • Individuals who agree to join the study will be asked to complete a survey, share their medical history and provide blood samples.
  • Researchers will evaluate participants and monitor progress through a series of medical visits, including a follow-up visit 30 days after discharge from the hospital.
  • UnitedHealth Group Research & Development will serve as the co-principal investigators of the study; analyzing findings in collaboration with MSM researchers.
  • The research will continue for one year and preliminary results could be available within six months.

“We are honored to continue our long-standing relationship with UnitedHealth Group in an effort to combat COVID-19 in underserved communities,” said Dr. Herman Taylor, professor of medicine and director of MSM’s Cardiovascular Research Institute. “Results from the study will help us understand the impact sickle cell trait has on the likelihood of a positive diagnosis and the severity of a COVID-19 infection and develop better monitoring and preventative strategies for infected and at-risk individuals.”