Imperial College Healthcare: new research finds being male or obese are factors in serious Covid-19 cases

Chances of survival from Covid-19 are reduced if an admitted patient is male and/or obese states new research.

A 17,000-patient study on those infected with Covid-19 unearthed the findings.

Researchers from three universities, including Imperial College London, undertook the study aiming to answer important questions about the course and risk factors for the disease.

As has been previously identified, Covid-19 is more severe in older people and those with underlying health conditions; specifically, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease, a weakened immune system, diabetes and some cancers.

What is less known, is how the severity increases with age, gender and other underlying conditions.

ISARIC4C is a consortium of researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Edinburgh, who analysed data obtained from 16,749 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the UK including St Mary’s and Charing Cross hospitals, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The data was analysed in an effort to better understand who is most severely affected by the virus, what happens to them in hospital and why some people have better outcomes than others.

With obesity levels being far lower in China than in the UK, obesity was not previously seen as a factor in Covid-19 being more severe.

It is not entirely clear however, as to why obese patients suffer more severe symptoms from the disease.

The researchers believe it could be due to obesity causing reduced lung function and more inflammation in adipose tissue – the fatty tissue under the skin and around internal organs.

According to the researchers, this might contribute to an enhanced ‘cytokine storm’ – a potentially life-threatening overreaction of the body’s immune reaction which causes harm.

The study is the largest of its kind outside of China where this strain of coronavirus emerged.

The results from the study have been shared with the UK Government and the WHO.

Professor Peter Openshaw, from the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London and honorary physician at the Trust said:

“This study is quite amazing in that it was launched with such speed and collected so much data. It highlights several crucial questions which researchers, healthcare professionals, the public and patients need answers to.

“Our research provides an exceptional picture of the illness and risk factors and will underpin a huge range of research.”

The study is being led by Professor Kenneth Baillie at Edinburgh University, Professor Calum Semple at Liverpool University and Professor Peter Openshaw at Imperial College London.

The analysis that found the relationship between sex, obesity and poor outcome was done by Dr Annemarie Docherty and Professor Ewen Harrison at Edinburgh University.

Professor Openshaw said:

“We really appreciate the huge effort that so many people made to send in clinical information and collect samples.

“It is salutatory to recognise that people risked their lives to collect material for this study.

“We thank them all as well as the funders, the patients and their relatives, and promise that we will do all we can to find ways to fight the disease.”