University of Edinburgh

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COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). 20% of affected patients develop lung inflammation and damage and this results in low oxygen levels in the body. Prior work from our labs, and others’, has demonstrated that low oxygen levels in the body alters the responses of the white blood cells (WBC).  These cells are responsible for clearing infections and orchestrating the repair of damaged organs. We propose to investigate the WBC of patients admitted to hospital with severe and critical COVID-19, to ascertain how WBC change with disease, whether these cells are fuelled in a different way and if this affects their function.  To understand if these changes are longstanding, we aim to study cells isolated from patients during acute illness and up to one year after recovery.  This work will help us to better understand how the immune system contributes to the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and identify new treatment strategies.


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We have two aims:

  1. Studies across the UK have looked very deeply at individual patients with COVID-19, including their genetics, clinical background, and research tests on cells and molecules in their blood. We are bringing these data together, linking it and making it available to enable researchers to identify potential mechanisms of disease that may indicate new treatments for COVID-19.
  2. We want to know what factors decide how long people will be immune to COVID-19, and what parts of the immune system are responsible. We are studying a small group of patients – who have already been hospitalised with COVID-19, and participated in our study during their illness. We will follow these patients very closely to work out how their original illness affected their subsequent immunity.