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Camden coronavirus study yields ‘surprising’ results

PUBLISHED: 16:01 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:01 28 September 2020

A study of almost 1,500 Camden over-70s has found that fit and active patients are no less at risk from coronavirus than the frail and bedridden, said Dr Daniel Davis (right). Pictures: Rui Vieira, PA Wire, and Tom Harrison, UCL.

A study of almost 1,500 Camden over-70s has found that fit and active patients are no less at risk from coronavirus than the frail and bedridden, said Dr Daniel Davis (right). Pictures: Rui Vieira, PA Wire, and Tom Harrison, UCL.

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Fitter people are dying from Covid-19 at the same rate as people with underlying health conditions once they are over the age of 70, a Camden study has found.

Camden residents signed up to a coronavirus study could be among the first in the UK to receive a vaccine. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA.Camden residents signed up to a coronavirus study could be among the first in the UK to receive a vaccine. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA.

Almost 1500 elderly Camden residents stepped forward earlier this year to help scientists find a coronavirus vaccine and take part in a UCL study.

Dr Daniel Davis, a consultant in geriatric medicine at UCL, has taken blood samples from the residents and said he found some “surprising results”.

“It’s one of the oldest samples being analysed at the moment,” he said.

Roughly 1,450 volunteers signed up for his study in spring, to try to help scientists understand what factors make elderly people more or less likely to develop serious Covid-19 symptoms and how best to immunise them.

Dr Daniel Davis at UCL said Camden volunteers may help scientists discover a 'signature' in the blood, capable of predicting patients' vulnerability to serious Covid-19 symptoms. Picture: Tom Harrison / UCL.Dr Daniel Davis at UCL said Camden volunteers may help scientists discover a 'signature' in the blood, capable of predicting patients' vulnerability to serious Covid-19 symptoms. Picture: Tom Harrison / UCL.

“We can’t just say seventy-plus is one thing,” he said. “We need much more understanding of the effect of the ageing process before we can help the people that are going to be most vulnerable.”

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He said they ranged from people who were fit and well, through to people in nursing homes.

“There’s a big range in age and health. We would want a vaccine to be helpful to protect all those people,” he said.

Dr Davis said the research had already yielded surprises.

“What we’ve found in our data was quite amazing and really, really unexpected,” he said. “If you didn’t look by age, but by frailty, even the fitter ones were dying at the same rate. Frail people were dying from Covid just like they would die from viral pneumonia. Where we saw a higher proportion of unexpected deaths was in people that were fit and still exercising.

“It suggests that they are dying for a different reason than the frail ones. It may be that the fitter ones are responding in an abnormal way, such as a hyper immune response.”

Dr Davis said: “What I would love to develop is a first step in determining somebody’s risk level – some signature in your blood that says you’ve got a very high chance that you’re going to feel sick for two weeks and recover, or to predict who is going to have a bad response.”

Government scientists said last week that vaccines could start making their way to UK citizens, in limited numbers, before the end of the year.

Dr Davis said he hoped vaccine studies in Camden would begin very soon.


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