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Iceni Magazine | June 6, 2020

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NNUH joins fight against coronavirus in ground-breaking new study

NNUH Caesarean section patient video to make its debut

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has enrolled its first patients onto a ground-breaking study researching the genomes of patients who become critically ill with Covid-19.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s GenOMICC project (Genetics Of Mortality In Critical Care), will work together with Genomics England and over 170 NHS hospitals including the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The study aims to sequence the genomes of 20,000 people who are severely ill with COVID-19. 2,000 patients have been recruited to the GenOMICC study already.

The data collected by NNUH and others will be compared to that from a further 15,000 COVID-19 patients who experienced only mild symptoms. This data will be collected from participants in the 100,000 Genomes Project and UK Biobank.

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.

All Covid-19 positive patients who are being treated on the Critical Care Complex at NNUH are eligible for enrolment into the study. The patient or their family are asked to consent to a DNA blood test, this test is looking to identify, sequence and analyse specific genes that control the processes that lead to life-threatening illness.

Georgina Randell, Critical Care Research Sister and Principal Investigator for this trial at NNUH, said: “This trial will hopefully identify the gene that makes some patients more susceptible than others and people want to help with this. Even though relatives are aware that this study will not directly benefit their loved ones at this very difficult time, we have had an incredibly positive response. They are keen to help find what causes some people to become more ill than others. They want to help find the gene.”

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. The GenOMICC study has been running since 2016, and has been investigating genetic factors that impact how patients fare in response to a number of severe illnesses. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, and with the tremendous support of the UK critical care community, the study has expanded and accelerated enormously, and we are now recruiting in over 170 ICUs across the country. I am delighted to be working with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to deliver this important work.” 

GenOMICC is one of five Covid-19 related studies involving critical care at the NNUH and is prioritised as a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) urgent public health study in the UK.

More than 40 patients at NNUH have also been recruited onto the RECOVERY trial (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy), which is testing several medications that are safely used for other conditions and have shown promise in helping to treat patients with the new strain of coronavirus in other countries.

The RECOVERY trial will look at treating patients with hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, or lopinavir/ritonavir, which is normally used to treat HIV, or the steroid dexamethasone, which is used in a wide range of conditions to reduce inflammation.


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