Cork University Hospital research creates better understanding of Covid-19

Cork University Hospital research creates better understanding of Covid-19
Dr Joe Eustace, who is overseeing the research as director of the HRB Clinical Research Facility at UCC, said the criteria for admitting patients had changed a lot. File picture.

Diabetes, cardiac disease, asthma, chronic pulmonary (lung) disease, and obesity are the five conditions most frequently identified in patients with underlying health issues admitted to Cork University Hospital for treatment of Covid-19.

That is according to ongoing research by University College Cork (UCC) nurses, who are gathering anonymised clinical data on hospitalised patients and feeding it into a global registry designed to create a better understanding of the occurrence and nature of the virus.

Dr Joe Eustace, who is overseeing the research as director of the HRB Clinical Research Facility at UCC, said the criteria for admitting patients had changed a lot.

“Go back a month and it’s incredible to think that at the start of all this, everyone who tested positive — even if they were otherwise feeling fine — was admitted and stayed for several days. Now people who are positive but only mildly symptomatic [and not deemed at-risk] wouldn’t get hospitalised in the current practice.”

Prof Eustace said that the global database they are feeding data into, set up by the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium, showed the average length of a hospital stay for Covid-19 patients (from admission to discharge or death) was 7.2 days, with standard variability of six days. “So what that’s really saying is some people are there for just a few days but quite a few may be there for 7, 14, 18 days,” he said.

The CUH registry shows the total number of Covid-19 admissions since March 26 is 76, with approximately 30 patients on-site and an average of six in the ICU. Prof Eustace said there had been some deaths.

In general terms, CUH had been fortunate so far in that the hospital has not been overwhelmed “probably because of compliance of people with the public health measures, as well as a less dense population structure compared to Dublin. And so those numbers and those ratios at the moment have probably been far better in the south of the country — which is no consolation for people who are sick.”

Clinical management of Covid-19 was “not that technically complicated vis-a-vis what we would normally be doing for patients with critical illness”, he said.

The real challenge is “the sheer numbers”.

“Where normally we’d be dealing with one or two patients like this a week, in an average hospital, suddenly we have dozens and Dublin has 100s.”

Dr Eustace said the research unit is seeking approval from the hospital ethics committee to use patient samples to study the virus. The third element would be conducting clinical trials and interventions using proposed medications — and they are hoping to get approval shortly.

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