Studies : BAME

New research will explore why some people who contract COVID-19 have symptoms and others don’t, and will question why, out of those who become symptomatic, not all become seriously ill.

Scientific Abstract

The recent COVID-19 pandemic in the UK has resulted in a reported greater risk of hospitalisation and death in healthcare workers due to exposure. Among Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups this risk is apparently higher than among whites. The objective of this project is to identify biological pathways underlying higher BAME susceptibility to severe COVID-19 in frontline healthcare workers in some of the largest Hospitals in England. Blood samples from 267 (aiming to reach 420) frontline healthcare workers at 3 frontline hospitals in Cambridge and Nottingham have been collected since 24 April. The NHS has ~40% BAME doctors and nurses, and some of our cohort have had COVID-19 symptoms and have tested positive to SARS-Cov2. We have serum for vitamin D and antibody testing, whole blood processed for RNA and DNA extraction are being collected, along with information on ethnicity, symptoms and comorbidities. We will perform transcriptomic and genotypic characterization focusing on innate immune genes already known to be differentially regulated in the various ethnic groups and assess their role in explaining differences in COVID-19 symptoms and presence of anti SARS-Cov2 antibodies. The study is sufficiently powered to detect 3-5 fold gene expression differences in all three main ethnic groups (Asians, Africans, Whites) and to detect genetic polymorphisms affecting COVID-19 risk with odds ratios of ≥ 2.6 in Asians and Whites. The project has been designed with the support of an established patient and public involvement group set-up since 2012 to address overlooked issues affecting minority ethnic groups.

Lay Summary

Healthcare workers are at high risk of developing COVID-19. We want to know how many doctors and nurses have had the virus, who has had it but without symptoms, and who has not had it.

This will help us understand why for some people COVID-19 is not serious and for others it is fatal. We are particularly interested as to why some ethnic groups suffer more serious infections.

We have already collected blood from 267 healthcare workers on a weekly basis during the pandemic and continue to do so. We are analysing serum (part of the blood) for antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19. We will look for differences in the genes of doctors and nurses who have had COVID-19, those who have not.

We will also measure the levels of genes related to immune response to the virus in blood, to find the mechanisms for susceptibility in specific ethnic groups using large databases with genetic information in ethnic minorities. We are able to do this efficiently as our healthcare workers have a high rate of coronavirus exposure and have high numbers of ethnic minorities (~40%).

PANdemic Tracking of HEalthcare woRkers

COVID-19 in Healthcare Workers study
In association with the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust