New funding to help understand how Covid-19 affects people

Published: 23 March 2020

CVR to play a key role in new project, on understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on the body

The MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) is to play a key role in new COVID-19 scientific project, announced today (Monday 23 March).

The project, which will be led by the University of Edinburgh with involvement from colleagues in Glasgow, Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Liverpool, has received £4.9m of rapid response government funding to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment from The Medical Research Council will kick start a new project that seeks to increase our understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on the body.

The project is part of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC), which the CVR is part of. Dr Antonia Ho, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the CVR and Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases, will coordinate recruitment of Scottish patients for the ISARIC 4C project, while the CVR will act as a repository for samples from patients recruited in Scotland. The CVR will also undertake whole genome sequencing of the virus from these samples.

Scientists on the project will collect samples and data from 1300 Covid-19 patients in the UK. The results will provide real-time information about the virus and could help to control the outbreak and improve treatment for patients.

Specifically, researchers will use the data to discover who in the population is at higher risk of severe illness, what is the best way to diagnose the disease and what happens in patients’ immune systems to help or harm them when they contract Covid-19.

They will also monitor the effects of drugs used in patients, calculate how long people are infectious, investigate if people are infected with other viruses – such as flu – at the same time.

The team has been part of the International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium (ISARIC) for eight years and includes co-investigators from six UK universities and Public Health England.

Dr Ho said: “This coronavirus is a new virus, to which none of us have prior immunity to. Therefore, most of the UK population are susceptible. It appears to be very infectious – much more so than flu – as evident by the high number of healthcare workers that have been infected.

“Working together, academic institutions alongside the NHS, sharing resources and data, is the best way we can begin to understand and develop strategies against this virus.”

Dr Kenneth Baillie, Academic Consultant in Critical Care Medicine, University of Edinburgh, said: “Covid-19 is completely new disease and presents so many unanswered questions. Through analysis of samples from 1,300 people, we can increase our understanding of how Covid-19 makes some people desperately sick. This in turn will help inform how we can best treat the disease.”

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First published: 23 March 2020