UCLH first to open in national priority trial to reduce spread of Covid-19 in hospitals

UCLH is the first site to recruit a patient to a national urgent public health study analysing viral genomic data in real time to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals.

The trial led by UCL scientists will look at the genetic sequences of the Covid-19 virus from all known Covid-19 patients in the hospital, along with newly infected hospital patients and frontline NHS staff.

Researchers will compare sequences of the samples collected – with results available within 24-48 hours. If the sequences are the same in separate samples from two individuals in the same hospital, this may indicate the virus was transmitted in the hospital. If sequences are different this will indicate no link between the two infections. Understanding transmission within healthcare settings will help hospitals put in place additional measures to curb the spread.

The national trial is led overall by Professor Judith Breuer, Director of the UCLH/GOSH Biomedical Research Centres funded Pathogen Genomics Unit. The UCLH portion of the trial is led by Consultant Virologist Dr Gee Yen Shin, alongside Dr Eleni Nastouli, Dr Catherine Houlihan, Gema Martinez-Garcia and Leila Hail from virology.

The Hospital Onset Covid-19 Infection (HOCI) trial is part of the Government’s £20 million Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), which is mapping the spread of the virus across the UK.  There is already evidence emerging from COG-UK that COVID-19 sequences can help teams to control hospital infections better.

The COG-UK HOCI trial will quantify by how much sequencing helps, how important it is to return results rapidly, what is the best way to implement COVID-19 sequencing across the NHS, and how much it costs. This information will help to make more precise plans as to how to use COVID-19 sequencing in the future.

The COG-UK HOCI trial will involve over 15 hospitals across the UK.