EGA IfWH Staff have focused their attention to addressing the Covid-19 pandemic
Professor Anna David is working with Prof Paolo de Coppi and Dr Mattia Gerli at UCL GOSH ICH on a UKRI funded project: Assessing the vulnerability of the fetus to SARS-CoV2 infection across development. Numerous studies have shown that pandemic coronavirus strains such as SARS enter the patient body through ACE2, a specific protein expressed in the airways. ACE2 is important for controlling blood pressure and it is increased in patients with hypertension and kidney conditions. Both patient groups are more susceptible to severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, infants and children appear to be less susceptible to severe infection, with extremely low numbers reported across the world requiring intensive care. Strikingly, newborns seem to be unaffected by this condition, even when the mother tests positive for COVID-19. This study will understand the mechanisms behind the low incidence of complications in fetuses and newborns. It will provide the health service and advisory boards with new data, that will help inform updated guidance to pregnant mothers during the current pandemic.
Dr Jens Madsen and Professor Howard Clark (Department of Neonatology) are evaluating whether a recombinant fragment of human SP-D (rfhSP-D) with known antiviral properties may be a potential therapeutic for Covid-19 patients.
Surfactant Protein D (SP-D) is a natural component of first- line immune defence and has both anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It inhibits viral infection by binding to the viral attachment proteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase from Influenza, F and G protein from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), gp120 from HIV, and also the Spike(S)-protein from SARS-CoV-1. As SP-D has both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity, it could potentially also alleviate the inflammatory cytokine storm causing the severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) seen in Covid-19 patients.
Dr Jenny Hall - Clinical Academic in Public Health Medicine. Jenny is working as a Senior Epidemiologist in the Epidemiology Cell as part of Public Health's England Coronavirus response. She is responsible for managing the team who produce the data for the National Covid-19 Surveillance reports, as well as working on a number of other epidemiological investigations.
Professor Alexey Zaikin (IfWH/Maths), Tatiana Nazarenko (IfWH), Harry Whitwell (ICL/ex-IWH) and Oleg Blyuss (Uni of Hertfordshire/hon IfWH member), have been working with a team based at the Francis Crick Institute and the Charite University Hospital Berlin to analyse high-throughput mass spectrometry data from serum and plasma collected from COVID-19 patients.
Using this data, they have derived and tested biomarker models for predicting the severity of COVID-19 with high accuracy. Longitudinal data from an independent cohort of patients will be analysed soon, where they hope to validate the models to see if they can predict which patients will progress to more severe disease requiring intensive care. For such predictive tests to be effective, early and rapid testing will be necessary and they will be working with their collaborators to develop rapid assays based on their findings.
Dr Anne Lanceley (Patient Care Research Group, Dept. of Women’s Cancer) has been involved with telephone pre-face-to-face clinic screening calls for new gynae oncology patients attending UCLH. She is also undertaking shifts on the helpline for the Eve Appeal and Target Ovarian Cancer as the demand for their service has greatly increased. She has also become involved in a BGCS linked Covid 19 project with the gynae oncology charities.
Professor Judith Stephenson (Sexual & Reproductive Health,) along with Dr Jenny Hall, Dr Geraldine Barrett and Professor Anna David are Co-Investigators on The CAP-COVID study. This was designed by doctors and scientists at University College London and University College London Hospital to monitor pregnant women in the UK during the COVID 19 pandemic. The Study is interested in women who are currently pregnant and agree to be followed-up through a series of surveys to document the outcome of their pregnancy.
Katie Gallagher (Dept. of Maternal & Fetal Medicine), and colleagues have collated the experiences from neonatal nurses in over 9 different countries, exploring the impact of COVID-19 upon their practice. These stories are being published shortly in the Journal of Neonatal Nursing and are being released in stages on the Neonatal Nurses Association website and Twitter accounts.
Dr Bola Grace, Honorary Research Fellow in the Dept of Reproductive Health has been delivering webinars at The University of Cambridge on Immunoassays, Diagnostics and Medical Device development for rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis.