Understanding how COVID-19 behaves

Wed, 22 Apr 2020 14:15:00 BST

Researchers at the University are using their expertise in immunology to better understand how the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) behaves and affects individuals.

Working with Manchester’s major hospitals has enabled immunologists to test live patient samples, leading to discoveries about why some patients respond better to certain therapies than others and why some develop more serious forms of the disease.

Harnessing their knowledge of the immune system, our experts will be able to discover how the virus responds in different patient groups, which will lead to better patient outcomes by allowing clinicians to take a more personalised approach to treatments.

The challenge is massive but achievable, given the context and immediacy of the current pandemic. Researchers and scientists across the globe are looking at how best to treat COVID-19 in different patient groups.

Understanding the differences in immunological responses to the virus is key to identifying which groups will develop more serious forms of the disease and those who are likely to respond better to certain therapies. This knowledge is critical to ensuring patients receive the appropriate therapies at the optimum time.

The University’s access to extensive facilities and a large collaborative research community means it can provide a rapid response to the need for increased COVID-19 knowledge.

The mechanistic study is being led by Professor Tracy Hussell, Director of the Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation, who, along with her research team, will help to visualise the virus – a first step in understanding how to treat it.

Professor Hussell says: “We’re trying to get an indication of the tipping point in the disease to identify which patients are going to improve, which are not, and where those changes are that will determine this. We’re also testing existing therapeutics to ensure different patients get the most appropriate treatment for them. This knowledge will provide insights that will allow for a more personalised approach to the management and treatment of the disease, including which patients receive which therapeutics at what point in their illness. The immune system underpins your ability to clear the virus, but it also underpins the severity of the disease that you get. We have a team of researchers willing to handle these infections in order to help expedite this knowledge and improve patient outcomes.

Manchester’s ability to rapidly pull teams together has been put into practice, leading to a national hub for knowledge to help expedite understanding of the virus.

“Manchester has been able to turn this around really quickly,” concludes Professor Hussell. “We benefit from a highly collaborative research community who all want the best outcomes – everyone has turned all of their expertise to this disease. This is what Manchester is best at: working together to progress knowledge.”

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