EGA 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.
COVID-19: Assessing the vulnerability of the fetus to SARS-CoV2 infection across development
While the SARS-CoV-2 (CoVID-19) virus has generated a pandemic, little is known about its impact on pregnant women and their fetuses. Professor Anna David (Maternal & Fetal Medicine) has been working on this study with the Institute of Child Health. In this study the plan is to analyse fetal, placental and postnatal tissues for the expression of gene and proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, to investigate the risk of mother/child transmission. They will be studying placenta and amniotic membrane at various gestational stages as well as cells isolated from donated amniotic fluid, which have been obtained via the UCLH Fetal Medicine Unit / UCL EGA Institute for Women’s Health.
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 – Associate Professor and Clinical Academic Consultant 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 weekly National Covid-19 Surveillance reports, as well as working on a number of other epidemiological investigations. One of these – HOSTED – the Household Transmission Evaluation Dataset has led to increased understanding of household transmission of SARS-CoV-2. First analyses have been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology and show that household transmission is not inevitable. A pre-print of new findings, widely covered in the media, has shown that vaccination with either the Pfizer or Astra-Zeneca vaccines reduces household transmission by 40-50%. This is the first evidence of the effect of the vaccines on transmission from people who become cases despite having been vaccinated.
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.
Dr Zeynep Gurtin (Dept. Reproductive Health) is the lead researcher on a new multi-disciplinary research collaboration between the Institute for Women's Health and the Reproductive Medicine Unit at UCLH. This fast-response project explores the impact of clinic closures and the coronavirus pandemic on fertility patients’ lives, relationships and feelings. The research was featured in an article in the Guardian on 28/05/2020, and covered by BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. The team received 501 responses to their online questionnaire and are currently preparing journal articles and conference presentations to report their findings.
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.