Responding to COVID-19
We want to thank our valued supporters of the COVID-19 Response Fund, and to share with you the impact this support is continuing to have on the breadth of LSHTM’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
In recent months, the Fund has been deployed to a number of highly innovative research projects led by some of our most talented emerging researchers. These research projects are an opportunity to test new ideas, innovate and make new discoveries to better understand the pandemic and its impact.
We are particularly proud of the individuals selected to receive these awards. These early career researchers have been given an opportunity to lead their own research project, often for the first time, giving them essential tools and experience to develop the skills their research careers and leadership roles to respond to future pandemics.
Here, we profile a number of the COVID-19 Response Fund grant awardees to find out about their winning studies, background and how your support is funding trailblazing COVID-19 research.
COVID-19 Response Fund grant awardees:
Dr Maria Ruperez Larrea - Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in HIV/TB
Study: Rapid diagnostic testing in Zambia
“I was working on a TB project in Zambia where we were conducting a survey to measure TB prevalence and incidence in the communities there. The pandemic has been a major problem in Zambia, and we needed to address what was happening. We began to shift and redirect our work to include COVID-related research and address the impact of COVID-19 in Zambia.
“To incorporate measuring COVID-19 into our existing activities and platforms, we needed vital additional funding. I applied and was awarded this grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund to validate Antigen (Ag) the use of rapid-diagnostic-test (RDT) to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection. This project started in May 2021, We thought it was important to validate Ag-RDT’s in our population to be able to guide in-country recommendations and guidelines on the use of these tests. This grant has allowed us to upscale our activities, fund field staff, data collection and analysis of the results.
“The research we are going to be able to conduct thanks to the COV ID-19 Response Fund grant is incredibly valuable. It will be interesting to see how we can use Ag-RDT tests in the community. We are reaching out to the population directly in the community rather than via health services, and we are really looking forward to sharing our findings.”
Dr Kevin Wing - Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Study: COVID-19 survival and diabetes
“I’m currently preparing a research grant for Diabetes UK, and this pilot study funded by the COVID-19 Response Fund is a vital part of that. The funding will allow me to demonstrate to Diabetes UK that we are already in a position to use UK electronic health record data to perform very large studies of the impact of COVID-19 on people with pre-existing diabetes and new-onset diabetes following COVID-19.
“I was drawn to this area of research while carrying out work as part of the LSHTM Electronic Health Records (EHR) research group. Before reports had started coming out about long COVID, myself and other group members started drafting proposals for studying post-COVID sequelae in electronic health record data. At that time so many questions were coming up about the virus, but we didn’t have the resource to perform this type of analysis over the longer-term, and that is how this study has come about.
“During the 2013-15 West African Ebola virus epidemic, I was seconded to Sierra Leone to help work on the health information systems in an Ebola treatment centre. I was subsequently involved in studies using data collected during clinical care of people with Ebola, one of which focused on post-viral symptoms. This meant that when we were thinking about studies relating to COVID-19, I immediately thought about the importance of studying post-viral symptoms.
“Initial reports suggest that COVID-19 may be a cause of diabetes, but there is a notable lack of population-level evidence relating to this, and very little is known about what happens to the health of people with pre-existing diabetes who have had COVID-19.”
Dr Rohini Mathur - Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow
Study: Impact of COVID-19 on health inequalities
“Last summer my colleagues and I were conducting an analysis of GP consultations before the pandemic compared to during the lockdown. We wanted to monitor whether people used GP services less, and what the reasons for this change were.
“We saw huge drops from April 2020 when the lockdowns began, and by August numbers still hadn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels and were much lower than average. We looked to find out if the drops were down to more people dying due to adverse outcomes, or if the general population’s health was improving due to some of the positive effects of lockdowns. We wanted to see if people were living healthier lives without their commutes, exposure to decreased pollution and being able to manage their diets better.
“This vital study funded by the COVID-19 Response Fund is enabling us to figure out if we can reshape the healthcare system going forwards, and to address if things have gotten worse due to changes in GP services practices, and are looking at how to tackle the potential of a huge unmet burden on the healthcare system. We wish to find out whether GP services can operate more efficiently going forwards, with changes in the intense monitoring of certain conditions. A year later we now have much longer data, and we can look at changes in hospital admissions and hard outcomes. This study will enable us to tie the two ends together.”