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Research projects to understand link between Covid-19 and cardiovascular diseases

UCL and UCLH are leading two studies looking at the link between Covid-19 and heart disease.

The studies, which will seek to find ways of improving treatments for Covid-19 patients who also have cardiovascular disease, have been designated as flagship research projects today by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

A team led by Prof Aroon Hingorani (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and UCL BHF Research Accelerator) and Prof Deborah Lawlor (University of Bristol and Bristol BHF Research Accelerator), with eight other BHF Centres and BRCs around the country, will investigate how genetic, demographic and lifestyle factors, as well as which pre-existing cardiovascular conditions and medications, affect susceptibility to Covid-19 and its severity. The COVIDITY COHORT project will combine large sets of population health data – which people have consented to provide – with national data resources on SARS-CoV-2 infection and Covid-19 patient outcomes, and researchers will analyse the data jointly to provide more reliable answers.

A separate UK-wide team led by Professor Bryan Williams (UCL Chair of Medicine and Director of the NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre) will analyse hospital data from across the UK on the outcomes of people with Covid-19. It will look to see how cardiovascular disease and risk factors increase the risk of developing severe complications of Covid-19, and which acute cardiovascular complications are most common in patients who develop Covid-19. This UK project links with the European-wide CAPACITY-COVID project.

Prof Williams said: “Understanding the link between cardiovascular disease and Covid-19 will be crucial to the treatment of patients – in particular in any future waves of Covid-19. With cases of patients being hospitalised with Covid-19 falling we have a window in which to do this research and answer these questions in a way which has not been done before.”

Prof Hingorani said: “We hope to identify genetic and other risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19, and to understand why patients with cardiovascular and related diseases might be at higher risk. We hope to generate insights into the processes underlying COVID-19 susceptibility and severity and through this to identify those who might be more at risk, and to identify treatment strategies that work by protecting from infection or modifying the disease course.”

Full details of both projects can be found on the British Heart Foundation website.