During the coronavirus pandemic, many countries have effectively banned group singing and playing of woodwind and brass instruments. Although there have been several clusters of Covid-19 noted in choirs around the world, there is no concrete evidence to link these cases to the acts of playing and singing. The University of Bristol, Imperial College London, Wexham Park Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, Royal Brompton Hospital and ARUP have all banded under the name PERFORM for a Covid-19 research project to tackle this problem.
PERFORM (ParticulatE Respiratory Matter to InForm Guidance for the Safe Distancing of PerfOrmeRs in a COVID-19 PandeMic), supported by Public Health England, will explore whether singing and playing brass and woodwind instruments produces more respiratory particles than when speaking. These aerosol experts will also be investigating whether venue temperature and size affects the amount of aerosol droplets produced.
Airborne droplets of a similar diameter to a human hair enable the transmission of the Covid-19 virus through sneezing, coughing, speaking, and even breathing. These droplets can contaminate surfaces up to two metres away that unsuspecting individuals may later touch. And equally troubling are smaller (10 micrometres!), respirable particles that can remain airborne hours after a sneeze, or singing.
Prof. Jonathan Reid from the University of Bristol has been determining whether aerosol droplets could be a culprit in the transmission of the virus. A PERFORM experiment at the University of Bristol includes individuals singing and speaking between the decibel (dB) ranges of 50–60, 70-80 and 90-100 dB. The Langford Vet School and the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Bristol are also exploring how long the virus survives at certain temperatures and relative levels of humidity. They have been in operating theatres working with clinicians to quantify aerosols produced from aerosol generating procedures, such as extubation and intubation.
The results from the Bristol study in conjunction with other outcomes in the PERFORM collaboration efforts against Covid-19 will help to provide more robust evidence for guidance on social distancing, and may provide an answer to the currently uncertain future of choirs and orchestras around the world.
JDRF and Diabetes UK will co-fund Professor Kathleen Gillespie, at the University of Bristol, to find out why the risk of death from Covid-19 is higher in those who are type 1 diabetic. Scientists don’t know how many people with type 1 have had coronavirus and recovered, obscuring the full impact that the virus is having on the UK’s 400,000 people with type 1.
Professor Gillespie’s team will work with a research group in Milan that has developed a test that can detect coronavirus antibodies in a small sample of blood – small enough to be collected via post. By offering this test to around 5,000 people participating in ongoing studies of type 1 diabetes (the Bart’s Oxford study and UK TrialNet), Professor Gillespie will be able to estimate how many people contracted coronavirus. She will also ask participants to share their experiences of COVID-19 and lockdown – including whether they have been shielding, if they have had any COVID-19 symptoms, and how their blood glucose levels have reacted. With this information, Professor Gillespie will be able to see how the type 1 diabetes community has been hit by COVID-19. This will give scientists and clinicians a clearer idea of the risk that coronavirus poses to people with type 1, enabling healthcare teams to better support and protect people with the condition.
Guest Blog: Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Director Professor Rachael Gooberman-Hill
Blog 6 July 2020
Early COVID-19 research – the bedrock for scientific next steps
Research at Bristol has risen to the challenge of SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, colleagues across the University have taken huge strides to use their expertise to move quickly on work that addresses the immediate and longer-term questions around the virus.
Here at the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute we’ve run a funding call to support research across all faculties and disciplines; designed to support research with as little bureaucracy as possible and maximum impact. We’ve supported over 60 projects in total in the space of three months, with around half of them in the UNCOVER group – an emergency research group at the University of Bristol set up specifically to tackle COVID-19.
The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute has been helping scientists to plant their seeds and it’s satisfying to watch them grow. The UNCOVER group’s work is high quality, and its success is down to the hard work of everyone involved, who have all worked fast and with massive efficiency. At the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute we’re going to learn from the streamlined research funding processes that we’ve been able to use over recent months.
Discoveries from UNCOVER are already being published so that the international research community can use it straight away. It’s making steps in important directions, particularly in our understanding of transmission, treatment and prevention of COVID-19. UNCOVER includes work here at Bristol and in partnership with others, and is underpinning proposals to major research funders. Some of the research completed already, just within a few months, is providing the bedrock for the next steps in the science.
I’ve been overawed from the start by the energy and commitment of Bristol’s staff in the research response to the pandemic, our thanks from all at the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for your hard work.
The leading experts from the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine are at the heart of much of the UNCOVER research activity. In this series of short films, a few of the UNCOVER scientists discuss how they are address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 research: Improving drug delivery (Dr Allison Blair)
Dr Allison Blair, Associate Professor in Experimental Haematology in the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine discusses her team’s work to adapt cancer drug delivery systems to help fight COVID-19.
Prof Ruth Massey, Professor of Microbial Pathogenicity in the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, discusses her team’s work to improve tests for dangerous secondary infections in COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 research: Understanding the immune response (Prof Fernando Ponce)
Prof Fernando Ponce, PhD candidate in the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, discusses his work to understand the role of neutrophils (a key form of white blood cell and the first line of defence against infection) in the body’s immune response to SARS-CoV2.
Jonathan Reid, Professor of Physical Chemistry, talks to Professor John Iredale, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Health and Life Sciences, about his team’s work to understand the mechanisms that enable a virus like COVID-19 to spread.
Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock, Senior Lecturer in Infectious Disease Mathematical Modelling, talks to Professor John Iredale, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Health and Life Sciences, about infectious disease modelling and how this work is underpinning the COVID-19 public health response of governments around the world.
A new COVID-19 Protein Portal providing UK scientists with free access to protein reagents for critical SARS-CoV-2 research launched on 12th May. The Portal, in response to a Wellcome and UKRI Open Science initiative, is led by a consortium of leading protein production laboratories including the MultiBac expression facility in the University of Bristol’s School of Biochemistry.
Healthy frontline NHS staff in Bristol will be studied as part of a ground-breaking research project led by infectious disease and immunology specialists from Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and the University of Bristol. Researchers will track their symptoms (or lack of), the presence (or absence) of the virus in their mouths and noses and the development (or not) of the protective antibodies in their blood over a three-month period.
In December 2019, there was just one lab in the country researching coronavirus, which was here in Bristol. Researchers from Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM) have been growing the live human SARS-CoV-2 virus in a controlled lab to investigate what the virus is doing inside monkey and human cells. Doctors David Matthews and Andrew Davidson from the CMM have already published the first UK paper describing the important genetic changes that occur when SARS-COV-2 spreads in the body.