New study to identify highest risk factors for COVID-19

Scientists have launched a new study which will help identify who is most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and why some people become more ill than others with the disease

Scientists have launched a new study which will help identify who is most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and why some people become more ill than others with the disease.

The COVIDENCE UK study, led by Queen Mary University of London, opens today [Friday 1 May] and aims to recruit at least 12,000 people, aged 16 or over, from across the UK.

King’s College London, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Edinburgh, Queen’s University Belfast and Swansea University are all partners in the research, which is funded by the Barts Charity.

The study aims to recruit as diverse a group of volunteers as possible, including those who have already had proven or suspected COVID-19 and those who have not. The team also want to include a mixture of people both with and without underlying conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease and high blood pressure. The information gathered will help scientists to understand why certain people appear to be at greater risk.

Study lead, Adrian Martineau, Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London, explains: “We know that people with certain medical conditions seem to be at increased risk of coronavirus disease. However, we don’t know why this is. Is it because people with these conditions tend to be older? Is it something to do with the underlying condition itself? Could particular medications affect the risk? Or are lifestyle factors such as smoking or different dietary patterns which tend to go along with some of these conditions important? The answers to these questions could help us to devise new strategies to reduce infection risk, while we are waiting for an effective vaccine to come along.”

The team also hope the data they gather will help to explain why the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 include a high proportion of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Participants will fill in a detailed questionnaire, covering their medical history, lifestyle and behaviour in terms of social distancing, hand-washing etc. Monthly updates will then track any new symptoms. The study will also automatically draw on patients’ NHS records to include information on test results and hospitalisations.

“If we can reach our 12,000 target, particularly if a significant proportion of participants have already had a positive test for COVID-19, then we should be able to get some early results in the next few weeks,” says Professor Martineau. “We also hope to understand why the severity of the disease differs so much across individuals, with some having no symptoms to otherwise healthy young people – albeit in small numbers – dying from the disease.”

The team also aim to see how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting people’s mental well-being – and vice versa.

Professor Gerome Breen from King’s College London explains: “Our mental health, particularly depression and anxiety, is closely entwined with our physical health and can play a role in how well we fight an illness or respond to treatment. That’s why we want to measure mental as well as physical well-being, to see if that can help predict the likelihood of an adverse outcome.”

The study, which will run for up to five years, will also create a platform to fast-track future trials of preventative treatments, such as dietary supplements, to see if they help to protect against COVID-19.


More information on the COVIDENCE UK study can be found at

For more information, contact:

Abigail Chard, Campus PR, T: 0113 258 9880 M: 07980 267756/ 07960 448532

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Notes to editors:

The lead researchers for the COVIDENCE study in the four nations of the UK are:

  • England: Adrian Martineau, Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity, Queen Mary University of London
  • Scotland: Aziz Sheikh, Professor of Primary Care Research and Development, University of Edinburgh
  • Wales: Ronan Lyons, Clinical Professor of Public Health, Swansea University
  • Northern Ireland: Frank Kee, Clinical Professor of Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast

About Queen Mary University of London

At Queen Mary University of London, we believe that a diversity of ideas helps us achieve the previously unthinkable. In 1785, Sir William Blizard established England’s first medical school, The London Hospital Medical College, to improve the health of east London’s inhabitants. Together with St Bartholomew’s Medical College, founded by John Abernethy in 1843 to help those living in the City of London, these two historic institutions are the bedrock of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. Today, Barts and The London continues to uphold this commitment to pioneering medical education and research. Being firmly embedded within our east London community, and with an approach that is driven by the specific health needs of our diverse population, is what makes Barts and The London truly distinctive. Our local community offer to us a window to the world, ensuring that our ground-breaking research in cancer, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and population health not only dramatically improves the outcomes for patients in London, but also has a far-reaching global impact. This is just one of the many ways in which Queen Mary is continuing to push the boundaries of teaching, research and clinical practice, and helping us to achieve the previously unthinkable.

About King’s College London and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

King’s College London is one of the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2018/19) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 31,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 8,500 staff.

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London is the premier centre for mental health and related neurosciences research in Europe. It produces more highly cited publications in psychiatry and mental health than any other university in the world (Scopus, 2016), with 21 of the most highly cited scientists in this field. World-leading research from the IoPPN has made, and continues to make, an impact on how we understand, prevent and treat mental illness and other conditions that affect the brain.

Queen’s University Belfast is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities. Queen’s is ranked 173 in the world (QS World University Rankings 2020) and is a UK top ten research-intensive university (REF 2014/ Times Higher Education). Founded by Queen Victoria in 1845, as one of three Queen’s Colleges in Ireland, it became an independent university in its own right in 1908 and, today, combines its international academic reputation with its standing as a leader in innovation and education. Researchers at Queen’s are at the heart of supporting global efforts to understand the Coronavirus (COVID-19) To find out more visit:

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