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article imageWhy are some people more severely affected by COVID-19?

By Tim Sandle     May 6, 2020 in Science
Whether it is looking at immune responses for people with coronavirus showing little or no signs of the disease, or assessing why some people show particularly bad symptoms, scientists are seeking answers about varying individual responses to COVID-19.
To examine why some people appear to contract coronavirus worse than others, the emerging field of coronavirus related provides some answers. There is a focus on what are termed 'increased risk’ people (in UK terminology) or ‘higher risk’ people (using U.S. terminology).
Three strands of research are summarized below, each aimed at working out who are the higher risk groups and how such information can help to inform about the most effective treatments.
The characteristics of severe COVID-19 disease
To answer many urgent questions about the characteristics of people who are most severely affected by the virus and what happens to them in hospital, a new study – called 'ISARIC4C' – has analysed data obtained from 16,749 COVID-19 hospital patients in the UK. The study is being led by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, and Imperial College London.
Based on the findings, researchers will test a library of approximately 1,000 drugs on cells in the laboratory to determine if any can reduce the toxic effects of novel coronavirus infection.
Pathophysiology and underlying health conditions
Medical findings suggest one in five people globally could be at increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease through underlying health conditions. Based on the accumulating evidence, scientists are calling for urgent further work to quantify and analyse the associated risks.
Health conditions of concern include older individuals living with cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and chronic respiratory disease (CRD), as well as people with HIV.
Research priorities
According to the Academy of Medical Sciences (U.K.) immunologists and epidemiologists are prioritizing research that seeks to understand more fully the 'host pathogen relationship'. This is seen as a key driver for understanding different approaches and new technologies.
The concept considers how viruses sustain themselves within host organisms on a molecular, cellular, organismal or population level. This includes looking at the different stages of infection, plus the mechanisms by which pathogens invade and proliferate in their hosts.
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