COVID-19 studies in the UK: 6 easy-to-read summaries

With the whole world affected by COVID-19, it’s a really interesting time for medical research and COVID-19 studies in the UK are being turned around with impressive speed.

This also means there’s a LOT of research out there and so it can be very difficult to navigate.

So, in a recent LinkedIn series, Dr Juliet Rayment and I highlighted some of the research happening into COVID-19 right now.

And we were delighted to have our series picked up within a blog post about cutting through health information overwhelm  as that was one of the things that we hoped to do.

COVID-19 studies in the UK: 6 easy-to-read summaries

In this post, I pull together the quantitative studies in the series with updates that have happened since the original LinkedIn posts and an added bonus study about risk in children at the end.

That way, you can see COVID-19 research highlights in one place.

There is a linked blog post over on Juliet’s website that includes all of the qualitative COVID-19 studies in the UK that we included in the series.

Can existing drugs be used to treat COVID-19?

Can existing drugs be used to treat COVID-19?

Why is this project happening?

Lots of different drugs that are currently used to treat other conditions may help to treat COVID-19. However there isn’t any evidence that they will work or be safe.

What are the researchers doing?

They are testing several drugs to see whether they are safe and help to treat people with COVID-19. The drug that patients receive will be randomly chosen, which means that it will be picked by a computer and the patient or their doctor will not decide. The research has been designed so that new treatments can be added if they become available.

Update since original post

There are now 6 treatments being tested:

  • A drug commonly used to treat HIV
  • A type of steroid, which is used in a range of conditions typically to reduce inflammation
  • A drug related to an anti-malarial drug (this has now been pulled out as it looks like it might cause unwanted side effects)
  • A commonly used antibiotic
  • An injected anti-inflammatory treatment
  • Convalescent plasma (see below)

There are now over 170 sites with over 10,000 participants recruited. This is incredibly fast set-up for a research study.

Click here to find out more

How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women and their babies?

How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women and their babies?

Why is this project happening?

We know very little about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women or their babies.

What are the researchers doing?

Researchers from the University of Oxford will use an existing reporting system (called UKOSS) to collect information about all pregnant women hospitalised with COVID-19. This will allow them to work out which factors are associated with better outcomes for both mum and baby. Interestingly, this study was originally funded in 2012 and was ready to kick into action if there was a new flu pandemic.

Click here to find out more

Can plasma from people who have had COVID-19 be used to treat others with COVID-19?

Can plasma from people who have had COVID-19 treat others with COVID-19?

Why is this project happening?

There’s promising research that shows “convalescent plasma” (plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19) could be used to treat COVID-19 patients, but this hasn’t been tested yet in a full trial. 

What are the researchers doing?

The NHS Blood and Transplant service (the people who collect blood donations) are asking for people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma. This plasma will then be used in a trial to see whether it works as a treatment for COVID-19. The trial has not yet been approved. They are setting it up ahead of approval so that they can hit the ground running when it is approved.

Update since original post

Two trials are now testing convalescent plasma as a potential treatment option for COVID-19. One of the trials (REMAP-CAP) is an international trial. The other is the national RECOVERY trial (see above).

Click here to find out more

Should we all be wearing face masks?

Should we all be wearing face masks?

Why is this project happening?

There is lots of debate about whether the public should wear face masks because there’s no clear evidence one way or another.

What did the researchers do?

They performed a rapid review of evidence about the public wearing face masks during epidemics or pandemics. This means they identified all of the published systematic reviews on the topic and then summarised them.

What did they find?

There hasn’t been much relevant research into whether masks work. So at the moment we don’t have a clear answer as to whether or not they do. Whilst we wait for evidence, the researchers argue that even a small effect could be helpful in a severe pandemic like this.

Click here to find out more

How can we test whether somebody has had coronavirus?

How can we test whether somebody has had coronavirus?

Why is this project happening?

We need to understand how many people have the novel coronavirus and how it is spreading to plan how to manage it going forward. Home testing will help with this.

What are the researchers doing?

In REACT-1, 100,000 people across England have been randomly selected to receive a home testing kit in a study that is being run by Imperial College and Ipsos Mori. This test will show whether they currently have coronavirus. It will be used to work out the national prevalence (how many people currently have coronavirus).

What’s next?

There’s also a need to develop reliable home-testing kits to see if somebody has antibodies. The current tests that have been tried haven’t been reliable. RAPID-2 will try out home-testing antibody kits to see whether people can use them and if they give accurate results.

Click here to find out more

Do children transmit coronavirus?

Do children transmit coronavirus?

Why is this project happening?

There have been mixed reports about the risk of COVID-19 in children and whether children are likely to transmit the coronavirus. With some children in the UK starting back to school, interest in this is at an all-time high.

What did the researchers do?

A team of researchers carried out a rapid review of all pertinent publications about COVID-19 in children.

What did they find?

They found that children appear to be less prone to developing COVID-19, and then when they do it tends to be less severe than in adults. Often children have COVID-19 without any symptoms. There is however evidence that some children have a critical form of the illness, but this is rare. It’s still not clear how children play a role in transmitting COVID-19, but it does appear that they are less likely to become infected and to bring the infection into their household.

Click here to find out more

About us

Dr Danielle Bodicoat and Dr Juliet Rayment put together this series about COVID-19 studies in the UK.

Danielle is a medical statistician and writer specialising in systematic literature review and evidence synthesis. You can find out more about me and my work on this website and by connecting with me on LinkedIn.

Juliet is a qualitative researcher with expertise in the experiences and organisation of health services, especially maternity care. You can find out more about Juliet on her website.


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