AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — For the last two years, researchers around the world have tried to learn why some people get severely sick from COVID-19 while others have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

“Each and every individual responds differently to the virus,” Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, the Director of the Georgia Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory at the Medical College of Georgia, explained. “At this point, we know that even if it’s the exact same virus and exact same variant, people do respond differently each and every time.”

Dr. Ravindra Kolhe and a team at the Medical College of Georgia began looking at genes. They identified seven gene variants that may affect if a person is susceptible to becoming severely ill after being infected with the virus. Kolhe explains that these variants may cause the virus to affect a person’s cells.

“Their genomes made the virus attach [to cells] really good, help the virus multiply and make a lot of copies, and then bring this extreme amount of response to the side of infection.”

That extreme response involves inflammation and could lead to multisystem organ failure in some patients.

Kolhe says this information could help researchers identify who is most likely to become severely sick. This could allow doctors to design the best treatment plans for their vulnerable patients, giving them the best chance of fighting off the virus.

“If you have these [gene] changes, we have to come up with a plan to make sure that you’re protected from the virus.”