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COVID-19 research update

 

Vaccine development  

We all know how much a vaccine against COVID-19 is needed. This great article from the Wellcome Trust gives an insight into the stages involved and how the timescales of usual development are being dramatically speeded up to address the urgent need.  Thankfully, initiatives at Imperial College London and Oxford University are leading efforts to develop a vaccine and collaborative partnerships are being struck with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that infrastructure is in place for large-scale production if an effective vaccine is found.   

 

The RECOVERY project   

This UK project aims to help identify the best treatments for COVID-19 through large randomised controlled trials. Treatments that are being looked at include: Hydroxychloroquine; Azithromycin; Kaletra and Tocilizumab. You can read more about the RECOVERY programme at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/worlds-largest-trial-of-potential-coronavirus-treatments-rolled-out-across-the-uk 

 

Trials of ‘convalescent’ plasma treatment  

Plasma treatment for COVID is being considered based on a few promising cases in China and past experience with Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS). Plasma from people who have cleared infection appears to help those who are sick clear infection more quickly. Trials are needed to see if it really helps people get out of hospital more quickly too.  

The NHS is calling on people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma, as part of a clinical trial to help work out how effective convalescent plasma is for treatment coronavirus patients.  Specific eligibility criteria apply, and volunteers need to live near a donation centre.  Please encourage friends and family who have had COVID-19 and recovered to take part. Find out more at  

https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/how-you-can-help/convalescent-plasma-clinical-trial/  


Anti-viral drug trials 

The anti-viral drug Remdesivir is showing promise in the treatment of COVID-19. The results from the National Institutes of Health trial showed that the drug resulted in a faster time to recovery and a small reduction in death rate.  More trials are needed to fully confirm the data but very recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA has granted remdesivir emergency use status.  

The anti-viral drug Favipiravir has also shown promise in an early study reducing the time to viral clearance.  Further trials are planned: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809920300631 


DNA studies 

The store of DNA in the UK Biobank is being used to study why the severity of symptoms for COVID-19 varies so much between affected individuals.  Read more at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52243605 

There are currently 289 worldwide interventional studies on COVID (that is trials that involve a drug or procedure to treat patients) and in total there are more than 1000 active trials of all types ongoing trying to improve the data and our understanding of this new disease.  That is a huge research effort built up in a very short time.  

 

Research studies you can get involved with 

COVIDENCE UK study 

Researchers from Barts and The London Medical School and other universities in London, Edinburgh, Swansea and Belfast would like to recruit people aged 16 years or older to take part in a national research study called COVIDENCE UK. This research is designed to find out whether people with conditions such as the primary immune deficiency CGD, may be at increased risk of coronavirus disease. The researchers are looking to recruit a broad mix of people from all over the UK, including those who have NOT had coronavirus infection, and those who HAVE already had proven or suspected coronavirus infection.  

The study will involve filling in an on-line questionnaire to collect information about your lifestyle, diet, longstanding conditions and prescribed treatment. Completion takes 30-60 minutes. After that, you will be contacted monthly via email to report possible symptoms of coronavirus disease. The data you provide will be linked to your medical records, to allow the study team to investigate whether coronavirus infection may affect long-term health.  For further information, please visit the study website: www.qmul.ac.uk/covidence.