Published on: 22 April 2020

COVID-19 patients from South Tyneside and Sunderland are playing a crucial part in helping to identify future treatments for COVID-19 to protect people all over the world.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which has a long-established reputation as a research leader in healthcare, is among NHS Trusts enrolling patients in two urgent public health research studies set up by the National Institute for Health Research.

As yet, there are no proven treatments for COVID-19 but, using international evidence and UK expertise, the most promising potential treatments have been identified and these national clinical trials aim to establish their effectiveness.

The hospital-based research trials at South Tyneside District Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital - RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP - are being led by Consultant Respiratory Physician Dr Liz Fuller and Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Dr Alistair Roy respectively, with support from the Trust’s research team. Patients meeting the criteria to take part in the trials are being identified by the Trust and given the opportunity to take part in this ground-breaking research.

The RECOVERY trial involves patients in hospital with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 and aims to identify treatments that may help their recovery. Led by the University of Oxford, the trial is testing four suggested treatments for COVID-19 – two antiretroviral drugs commonly used to treat HIV; a type of steroid used in a range of conditions, typically to reduce inflammation; a medicine related to an anti-malarial drug, and a commonly used antibiotic. Data from the trial will be regularly reviewed so that any effective treatment can be identified quickly and made available to all patients and information on new drugs will be considered with a view to including the promising ones in the trial.

REMAP-CAP is an international trial focusing on critically ill patients with community-acquired pneumonia (or CAP), which is a significant cause of hospitalisation and illness world-wide. Two COVID-19-specific elements have been added to the trial - antiviral therapy and immune modulation therapy (medications that alter the way that the immune system works).

Dr Fuller said: “We are proud to be one of the Trusts across the country taking part in the RECOVERY trial and helping to establish potential treatments for COVID-19 as quickly as possible.”

Dr Roy added: "Quality research, like the REMAP-CAP and RECOVERY studies, help us to develop future care for patients. It is only through such studies that we can continue to provide the best evidence-based care which our patients deserve."

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is also involved in two further COVID-19 studies which have been prioritised and fast-tracked through the set-up process. Dr Tony Rostron, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, is principal investigator for GenOMICC, which aims to identify the genes that cause susceptibility to COVID-19 to help to prioritise treatments. The Trust’s Director of Research and Innovation, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Mr Kim Hinshaw, is principal investigator for a national trial led by the UKOSS (UK Obstetric Surveillance System) team based in Oxford, which will assess the outcomes for the mother and baby for pregnant women with COVID-19 who are admitted to hospital.

The Trust is already looking at more opportunities to get involved in COVID-19 trials as they emerge.