Read our latest SAGE Report (9 June 2020)


Using genomic data to examine how and when COVID-19 entered the UK

The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, which includes members of HDR UK Cambridge, are working on whole-genome virus sequencing on a large scale which has been combined with data on the number of inbound travellers to the UK and estimated number of infections worldwide to identify trends.

This analysis shows us how and when the virus entered the UK with inbound international travel found to be a major factor in the number of importations of COVID-19. Results found estimations of around 34% of detected UK transmission lineages arriving via inbound travel from Spain, around 29% from France, around 14% from Italy and around 23% from other countries.

The results from this analysis is preliminary and more work is needed, but it’s useful to see how this research can be used to help evaluate future trends in virus introduction.

Find out more about the emerging trends

Largest study to date exploring link between ethnicity and COVID-19 in UK

A recent study which looked at data from nearly 73,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19 explored the link between ethnicity and the virus and found that people from black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of COVID-19 prevalence. The study suggests that this may be explained partially due to occupational exposure, deprivation and where people live in relation to the geographical distribution of COVID-19 in England (e.g. larger outbreaks have occurred in London and the West Midlands, where the population is also much more ethnically diverse).

Whilst further research is needed to better understand whether BAME groups are more likely to contract COVID-19 and/or have an increased risk of severe outcomes once infected, the authors of the paper recommend that an individual’s COVID-19 level of risk should also incorporate ethnicity to sit alongside other considerations when being assessed.

Find out more

Findings on the use of hydroxychloroquine in hospitalised patients with COVID-19

The RECOVERY trial ,led by investigators in Oxford and supported by the NHS DigiTrials Hub, is a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential drugs that could be used to help fight COVID-19, enrolling over 11,000 patients from 175 NHS hospitals in the UK.

One of the drugs being tested was hydroxychloroquine. After reviewing the data from the trial, chief investigators of the RECOVERY Trial, Professor Peter Horby and Professor Martin Landray, found there was no evidence of beneficial effects on mortality, hospital stay duration or other outcomes and have concluded there is no beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

Whilst it is a negative result, it does showcase the value of these trials to inform decisions and now means focus can turn to other promising drugs.

Find out more

Severe COVID-19 is strongly associated with past medical history

A recent pre-print paper that looked to explore and identify risk factors for severe COVID-19 found that an increase in severity of COVID-19 is strongly associated, across all age groups, with different conditions that individuals already have as part of their past medical history. A number of comorbidities that were included are outside of those conditions which are already currently deemed to be most at risk.

These results have led to the authors recommending a more robust risk classifier to allow for more accurate identification of those who are most in need of shielding until the epidemic is over.

Find out more in the pre-print

Pilot completed of a new test for COVID-19 that can be used at the point of care

This recent pilot study explored the use of a new test that could be used at the point of care compared to the standard lab testing. John Bradley, Director of the Gut Reaction Health Data Research Hub was part of this collaborative team and the results have shown that both tests performed at the same level. However, this new test has seen a shorter time from the test being completed to then reaching the results in both trial and real-world settings.

Point of care testing plays an important role in relieving the impact of COVID-19 on hospital systems as it can allow for more rapid triage and patient movement to safe and appropriate isolation wards. It can also play a role in improving clinical outcomes by reducing the time in which patients access relevant investigative tests and treatment.

Find out more about the pilot study

Tweet of the Week

It’s time to highlight the ‘Tweet of the Week’ which could showcase a new piece of research, a new area of work or an interesting blog. This week we’re highlighting a blog written by HDR UK South West Director, Jonathan Sterne, who tells us more about selection bias in relation to COVID-19.

Follow us on Twitter

More information and tools

1. Submit your research question or project – we are calling on anyone with a research question for COVID-19 that requires health data to share your ideas via our online form.
Questions will be shared in our HDR UK COVID-19 Knowledge + Skills Matchmaker. We prioritise all of the questions using a transparent and objective process to identify the questions that most urgently need to access to data. Progress of the prioritised questions is reported weekly to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

2. HDR UK GitHub repository – The HDR UK community is developing computer-based tools and methodologies to analyse and handle health data, including those that can help overcome the COVID-19 challenge. These are all shared in a central repository, which is open to the public, so that we can all learn from each other and build on each other’s work. They are shared in HDR UK’s area of GitHub

3. COVID-19 Slack channels – researchers and innovators looking to collaborate to use health data to address the pandemic can apply to join our dedicated Slack channels. Complete the form to register your interest in joining here.

4. Take a look at our Skills + Knowledge Matchmaker to see a full list of COVID-19 ongoing projects, or visit COVID-19 page to see the latest version of HDR UK’s strategy to support efforts to tackle the pandemic.