New study to examine lack of 'sunshine vitamin' for those infected
A new study to identify who is most at risk of contracting Covid-19 and why some people become more ill than others is underway with low levels of vitamin D among the factors being examined.
The COVIDENCE-UK study is being led by Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and Kings College London among others, all partners in the research, which is funded by the Barts Charity.
The work has particular resonance to Scotland where vitamin D deficiency has been reported as prevalent due to poor weather.
Having launched on May 1st, scientists have so far only recruited 8000 of the minimal 12,000 people they need to sign-up - participants can be aged 16 or over, from across the UK.
The study aims to recruit as diverse a group of volunteers as possible, including those who have already had proven or suspected Covid-19 and those who have not.
The team also want to include a mixture of people both with and without underlying conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Among these, the over-represented populations affected by the disease, such as BAME and the over-sixties, are sought. The information gathered will help scientists to understand why certain people appear to be at greater risk.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, is the lead clinician for the study in Scotland and sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group.
He said: “This very large study will enable us to gain significant insights into multiple risk factors associated with Covid-19, helping us understand why particular groups are more susceptible.
“One potential risk factor of particular interest is low levels of vitamin D – the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’.
“If this turns out to be important , it could have particular relevance for the people of Scotland, where deficiency is very common due to our relative lack of sunny weather.
“Scots make up just 5 per cent of study participants at present, compared to 8 per cent of the UK population – I hope that people from across Scotland will consider signing up, in order to ensure that our findings are based on a representative sample of people from all four nations of the UK.”
The team also hope the data they gather will help to explain why the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 include a high proportion of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Professor Sheikh added: “Given the disproportionate impact on our community, we are particularly keen to ensure that Asian experiences are represented and our voices are heard.
“We hope a wide variety of people will volunteer to take part in the study from across Scotland and the UK, to enable the role of different backgrounds and varying medical histories in the effects of COVID-19 to be fully explored."
Study lead, Adrian Martineau, Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London, said: “We know that people with certain medical conditions seem to be at increased risk of coronavirus disease.
“However, we don’t know why this is. Is it because people with these conditions tend to be older? Is it something to do with the underlying condition itself? Could particular medications affect the risk?
“The answers to these questions could help us to devise new strategies to reduce infection risk, while we are waiting for an effective vaccine to come along.”
Some the UK’s biggest health charities including Diabetes UK, the British Lung Foundation, Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation and National Kidney Federation are also throwing their weight behind CovidenceUK and are now contacting supporters, asking them to sign up.
Recruits are asked to sign up at www.qmul.ac.uk/covidenceand
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