NSLHD Year in Review 2020

rnsh COVID-19 Research

For many people with COVID-19, the first sign they had the virus was a loss in their sense of smell. Now a team from the Kolling Institute and Royal North Shore Hospital is investigating the correlation between the virus and early symptoms.

Associate Professor Clifton-Bligh, Head of Endocrinology at RNSH

The study involves researchers from Australia and India, and will investigate whether existing blood pressure medications can reduce the risk of severe disease as well as the duration of severe symptoms. Professor Carol Pollock, who will lead the trial at RNSH, said the CLARITY study is investigating whether a class of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers can improve outcomes for patients. “We’ll also be looking at whether these medications can protect patients against lung injury from COVID-19, a common outcome for those with severe symptoms,” she said. “These existing blood pressure medications have already shown to reduce inflammation and we’re hopeful they’ll reduce the risk of severe COVID disease and guide future treatment advice.” Blood pressure medications have been used widely in the treatment of various chronic diseases for more than 30 years and are affordable and easy to access. The trial has received $1.4 million from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Associate Professor Meg Jardine and Professor Carol Pollock

The study, led by Associate Professor Rory Clifton-Bligh, is just one of many being conducted as part of the Northern Sydney Local Health District COVID-19 research group. All major specialist disciplines are represented in the group, taking advantage of the breadth of knowledge across the health campus. Rory said a loss of smell had emerged as a common symptom of COVID-19 infection, but the current data was relying on subjective, self-reported information. “This study will objectively assess loss of smell with people who have tested positive to COVID-19,” he said. “It’s really pleasing to be involved in such an important study, and we hope it will assist early diagnosis of the virus and future treatment options. The rapid evolution of the pandemic has led to new research

collaborations and partnerships, and innovative approaches to clinical trials for COVID patients and healthcare workers.” Head of Neurogenetics and Executive Director of the Kolling Institute Professor Carolyn Sue will form part of the research team. “We have used this smell test before to assess patients with other medical conditions and found it easy to do and interpret,” she said. “This new application of the smell test is an exciting way to combine our past expertise with new research collaborations to help solve COVID-19 related health problems for our patients and the general community.” Meanwhile another study is looking into whether a group of blood pressure medications may hold the key to better outcomes for those with COVID-19.


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