One year on: a look at Covid-19 research taking place at Royal Surrey | Research News

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One year on: a look at Covid-19 research taking place at Royal Surrey

Image of the microscopic coronavirus

At the start of the pandemic, researchers and medics all around the world came together with a clear focus to improve treatment for Covid-19 and find a vaccine. Royal Surrey was quick to join global efforts to find new treatments for the condition. It became a site for national and international research projects, enrolling its first patient in March 2020.

Fast forward one year and the trust has recruited more than 1,250 participants to Covid-19 research studies, 11 of which were nationally prioritised as urgent public health research. This research played a crucial role in furthering the understanding of the disease and led to the early identification and approval of treatments, saving thousands of lives.

Findings from some of the studies Royal Surrey patients have participated in, include:

RECOVERY is the world’s largest clinical trial investigating Covid-19 and is led by Oxford University. It has provided authoritative evidence on what treatments do and do not work. As early as June 2020, it found that the cheap and widely available steroid dexamethasone reduces deaths by one third in patients using a ventilator to breathe, and by one fifth in patients receiving oxygen only. Figures published in March 2021 estimated this drug has saved around one million lives globally, including 22,000 in the UK. As part of the same study, an anti-inflammatory treatment for arthritis, tocilizumab, was also found to reduce the risk of death when given to hospitalised patients with severe Covid-19.

The study also ruled out four drugs – lopinavir-ritonavir, azithromycin, hydroxychloroquine and colchicine – besides convalescent (or blood) plasma as ineffective in helping seriously ill patients recover. The trial continues to investigate a range of treatments and recently expanded internationally. Find out more on the RECOVERY website.

REMAP-CAP found that two drugs routinely used to treat arthritis - tocilizumab and sarilumab – can significantly improve the chance of survival for critically ill Covid patients. The anti-inflammatory medications, given via a drip, were shown to save an extra life for every 12 patients treated. As well as saving more lives, the treatments were shown to speed up patients' recovery and reduce the length of time patients need to spend in intensive care by about a week. Find out more on the REMAP-CAP website.

CLARITY showed that the commonly prescribed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) drug infliximab blunts the immune system to Covid-19 infection, potentially increasing the risk of reinfection. Careful monitoring of patients with IBD treated with infliximab, who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, will be needed to ensure they mount a strong enough antibody response to ward off the infection, advised researchers. Find out more about CLARITY on the Crohn’s & Colitis UK website.

SIREN gave new insight into how human immune systems respond to Covid-19. This study, involving healthcare professional participants from all around the UK, showed that past Covid-19 infection provides a high level of immunity to reinfection for at least five months. An independent analysis of SIREN additionally showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides high levels of protection against Covid-19 from the first dose.

GenOMICC gave insight into how genes affect the body’s ability to fight Covid-19. It found key differences in five genes of intensive care patients compared with samples provided by healthy volunteers. The genes partially explain why some people become desperately sick with Covid-19, while others remain asymptomatic. Find out more on the GenOMICC website.

A full list of Royal Surrey Covid-19 studies is available on our Covid-19 Research Studies page.

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