In addition to directing the STOP COVID One Liverpool response to this crisis, my personal interest is in the very marked differences in outcomes in COVID-19 that seem to be modulated by both gender and pregnancy.
COVID-19 research areas
We are currently screening blood samples from over 16,000 women at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital taken at the time of booking for routine antenatal care. We are hoping to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 in this group over the course of the pandemic and to identify whether they are at decreased risk of contracting the virus or at decreased risk of adverse outcomes - or both! In addition, we are also collaborating with colleagues nationally to investigate why women in general seem to fare better using a range of epidemiological methods.
Why these areas are important
Well normally, pregnant women are very susceptible to adverse outcomes in infectious disease. The H1N1 pandemic was associated with disproportionate morbidity and mortality in pregnant women. This is unsurprising because pregnant women are slightly immunosuppressed, and this is why other viruses like varicella can be so problematic in pregnancy.
However, COVID-19 seems to be different. Pregnant women are not at especially increased risk and in fact, women in general seem to fare better than men. Understanding this - and the underlying pathophysiology - might be important in helping identify novel therapeutic or preventative strategies.
Why working towards tackling COVID-19 inspires me
The publication of the Public Health England report COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes shows very clearly that the North West has one of the highest incidences of COVID-19 nationally. Moreover, outcomes are worse in communities already burdened by deprivation and social and health inequality. These are issues that have been central to the mission of our newly restructured Faculty’s civic response to the health needs of our wonderful city.
COVID-19 has brought these issues and others into sharp focus and I’m proud that we are leading our city on the Liverpool research response to this public health crisis. Ultimately, science is our way back from this and our University is home to world leading researchers in this field.
There are no silver linings to a global crisis like COVID-19, which has had such a disproportionate effect on our city and has caused such misery and grief here and indeed worldwide. However, the speed, agility and passion of the scientific community’s response, regionally, nationally and internationally has been inspirational. We must remember this and not return to business as before when this is behind us. Science has never been more important to the future of the planet and we need a new way of nourishing it and of thinking about it.
What it means to be part of the University of Liverpool at this time
I am a proud graduate of the University of Liverpool, everything I have achieved in my career has been made possible by the five wonderful years I spent at medical school here. To hold a leadership role in such a wonderful institution, and at such a critical time for our city is humbling. I am really delighted to be home.
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