Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and UnitedHealth Group have joined forces to determine if people with sickle cell trait are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and if the trait results in more severe cases of the disease.
“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.”
While the effects of COVID-19 have global implications, national mortality rates due to 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.
MSM researchers plan to enroll at least 300 adults who have sickle cell trait and are hospitalized at Grady Memorial Hospital for COVID-19. 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. Planning for this study commenced in early April and opened for participation in May. 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.”
The collaboration between MSM and UnitedHealth Group underscores the organizations’ shared goal of promoting health equity and advancing an inclusive response to the community spread of COVID-19.
Since 2013, UnitedHealth Group has collaborated with MSM to improve health outcomes, and identify, monitor and reduce health disparities in underserved communities.