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Hospital is top recruiter for ground-breaking Covid-19 study

3 September 2020

Royal Bournemouth Hospital (RBH) is one of the top hospitals in the country for recruiting Covid-19 patients to participate in a nationwide study, looking at why some people are more severely affected by the virus than others.

The study, part of a partnership between the GenOMICC Study Consortium (led by the University of Edinburgh) and Genomics England, and announced by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock in May, aims to better understand the virus’ varied effects on people, and support the search for treatments.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s GenOMICC project have been working together with Genomics England and over 200 NHS hospitals including, in the top 20, RBH. The study aims to sequence the genomes of 20,000 people who are severely ill with Covid-19, and to date 3,000 patients have been recruited.

This ground-breaking research may help explain why some patients with Covid-19 experience a mild infection, others require intensive care, and why for some it is sadly fatal. By discovering why some people are predisposed to developing life-threatening symptoms, the initiative will enable novel insights into the virus, as well as possible human factors that influence the effects of the disease, and whether a combination of both shape outcomes for NHS patients.

RBH research and innovation nurse, Debbie Branney, said: “We are proud to be one of the top participants for this important study. We know how many lives an infectious disease such as Covid-19 has the potential to affect, and we are hopeful this research can identify the gene that causes some people to be more vulnerable than others. This in turn can give us a better understanding of how to care for those most at risk, and lead to the potential development of enhanced treatments.”

Speaking about the importance of each patient’s involvement, RBH critical care research nurse, Sally Pitts, said: “It is a privilege to be working on this important study in the fight against the virus. Every research patient is always more than just a number to us, and their willingness to participate is greatly appreciated. Despite the fact that the study will not be of immediate benefit to them, they have all been so keen to be involved and help us better understand Covid-19, and we simply couldn’t do this without them.”

Dr Kenneth Baillie, Chief Investigator on the GenOMICC study, said: "Our genes play a role in determining who becomes desperately sick with infections like Covid-19. Understanding these genes will help us to choose treatments for clinical trials. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, and with the tremendous support of the UK critical care community, the study has expanded and I am delighted to be working with RBH to deliver this important work.”

RBH is also involved with another Covid-19 research project, the clinical RECOVERY trial, which looks at the effectiveness of drugs in treating confirmed cases of Covid-19. Read more here: https://www.rbch.nhs.uk/index.php?id=3027 

RBH research nurses Debbie Branney and Sally Pitts

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