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.
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.