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Roslin Covid-19 research

Work by scientists at the Roslin Institute investigating the novel coronavirus.

This page lists news stories about our Covid-19 and coronavirus findings and projects as well as related scientific publications.

Latest findings

DNA variations linked to severe Covid-19 risk

Two medical professions 150px

Specific variations in DNA are associated with patients developing the most severe form of Covid-19, a large international study involving scientists from the Roslin Institute has found.

Factors such as smoking and high body mass index also cause patients to suffer from acute Covid-19, scientists reported.

The findings partially explain why some people become seriously ill with Covid-19 and could provide targets for future therapies using repurposed drugs, experts say.

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Covid-19 dashboard tracks spread across Scotland

Covid-19 Cases

Tracking and Modelling for Scotland dashboard provides interactive, detailed weekly maps to track disease spread and inform control strategies.

An online resource has been created to demonstrate the detailed spread of Covid-19 infections across Scotland, in a move that could help aid interventions to manage disease.

The data and mathematical modelling results presented will help in formulation of timely, targeted, evidence-based, public health responses to Covid-19.

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Protein linked to severe Covid-19

Doctor in protective clothing in hospital intensive care unit treats Covid-19 patient with infusion during the coronavirus pande

Patients with severe Covid-19 have been found to show increased levels of a key protein in their blood, in a development that could help identify those most at risk.

Levels of the protein were nearly 10 times higher in those who died from Covid-19 than in healthy individuals, the study has found.

Increased protein levels could help to identify patients at risk in early stages of disease and provide a target for new treatments, researchers say.

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Sewage signals early warning of Covid-19 outbreaks


Monitoring programmes put into operation to quickly identify localised coronavirus outbreaks.

Fragments of coronavirus have been detected in wastewater samples across Scotland and in England and Wales, in projects designed to enable early warning of local outbreaks of Covid-19 infection.

The approach, developed with support from Roslin scientists, tests for genetic material from the coronavirus in wastewater.

Most people infected with the coronavirus are believed to shed it in their faeces even if they have no symptoms, so wastewater analysis can help identify local outbreaks ahead of rising hospital admissions.

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Genetic insight holds promise of Covid-19 vaccine

Vaccination by CDC

Detailed knowledge of the genetic code of the novel coronavirus could support efforts to develop a vaccine.

Insights into the genetic makeup of the virus behind Covid-19 could help develop vaccines and possible treatments for infection.

Key characteristics of the genetic code of the coronavirus – known as SARS-CoV-2 – could point to ways in which it could be modified for use in vaccines, or could highlight suitable targets for drug treatments.

The findings, from a study by Roslin scientists, also shed light on the origins of the virus.

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Two men walking and wearing face masks

Experts warn of second Covid-19 peak in winter

A combination of environmental factors plus pressure on healthcare provision could lead to a further spike in cases. 

A second wave of coronavirus infections, more serious than the first, could impact the UK this winter, according to research involving Roslin scientists.

A further peak of the outbreak, combined with existing disruption to the health service, a patient backlog, and the possibility of a flu epidemic, poses a serious risk to health in the UK, according a new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences.

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pill packets

Low-cost drug curbs deaths in serious Covid-19 cases

The widely available drug dexamethasone reduces death rates in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications from Covid-19, research has shown. In the study, led by scientists from the University of Oxford, 2104 patients received the drug. It reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one-fifth in other patients receiving oxygen. It had no benefit among patients who did not need respiratory support.

Dr Kenneth Baillie, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Anaesthesia and Critical Care at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Inflammation Research and the Roslin Institute, has been involved in setting up trials and is part of the steering committee. The researchers are now working to publish the full details.

Read University of Oxford’s press release

People wearing Face Coverings

Face coverings can cut risk of coronavirus spread

Scientists testing the effectiveness of seven types of face covering, including medical-grade and home-made masks, found that they could all potentially help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, some of the masks enabled strong jets of air to escape from the back and sides.

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Tape Measure

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Obesity impacts on Covid-19 recovery prospect

Being obese reduces the chance of survival in severe cases of Covid-19, a study has found. Reduced lung function and inflamed tissue under the skin and around internal organs could be linked to the increased risk. Being male is also linked with more serious Covid-19 hospital admissions.

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Covid-19 tracker

Covid-19 tracker helps visualise cases in Scotland

A dashboard pulling together data from several sources on the Covid-19 outbreak in Scotland provides a picture of how the situation is developing. Data on the global trajectory of the pandemic is also available.

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Research projects

Covid ICU

Covid-19 mixed with flu raises risk of severe illness

Co-infection with flu in patients with Covid-19 more than doubles their risk of death, hospital data shows.

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Large Vaccine

Gene variants linked to severe cases of Covid-19

Genes with links to critical illness offer routes to investigate novel treatments.

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Global network formed to investigate coronaviruses

Lab material

A new international network brings together researchers in animal and human coronaviruses to further understanding in a range of fields, such as disease transmission and immunity. The network aims to enhance knowledge of this important virus family, to inform response strategies for future outbreaks.

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Covid early warning system could avert lockdowns

Prof Rowland Kao

Scientists are developing a Covid-19 early warning system that could prevent future lockdowns in Scotland by combining data on vaccine uptake with wastewater testing.

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Experts are upbeat about quest for Covid treatment

Leading scientists from Universities of Edinburgh, including the Roslin Institute, and Dundee have joined a €77.7 million initiative to find a treatment for Covid-19 and say they are optimistic progress can be made.

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Health care requirements

Hands with gloves on holding a face mask

A study will predict the effects of Covid-19 on the demand for primary health care and hospital resources in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland by looking at available data.

Read more on the funder’s page

Home DNA test data sought for Covid-19 study

DNA test

Researchers are asking people who have used DNA testing services – such as Ancestry DNA, FTDNA and 23andMe –to join a study that aims to identify key genes involved in the body’s response to the infection.

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Genetics of Covid-19 patients is focus of study

Genetics Study

Researchers are to study the genetic blueprints of severely ill Covid-19 patients to find out why the disease affects some more seriously than others and suggest potential treatments.

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Campus volunteers support Covid-19 research

Campus volunteers

More than 70 members of staff from the Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies have volunteered to support research tackling Covid-19 involving all UK coronavirus patients in intensive care.

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Data method seeks weak spots in coronavirus genome

Covid-19 Virus and DNA

Regions of the coronavirus genome that could be targeted to disrupt the virus can be predicted by a new machine learning method. The findings could help to develop vaccines and drug treatments against the virus.

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Virus transmission in Scotland

Covid-19 Virus

The rise and fall in Covid-19 cases in Scotland will be tracked as part of a £62,000 project led by Roslin scientist Dr Samantha Lycett. The team will compare the virus’ genetic makeup in different areas of the country and combine this with models of the incidence, distribution and spread of the virus in the population.

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Scottish funding supports Roslin Covid-19 work

Covid-19 Virus

Three awards from the Scottish Government will support scientists working to track the spread of the coronavirus by looking at its genetic makeup in different areas of Scotland, investigating the effects of severe Covid-19 in the body, and 3D printing personalised protective equipment for healthcare workers.

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£5m Covid-19 study seeks to understand virus impact

Kenneth Baillie

A scientist from the Roslin Institute is leading a £4.9 million project seeking to aid understanding of Covid-19 and its impact on the human body.

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Antiviral therapies and vaccine strategies

Roslin Covid-19 antiviral

Roslin researchers are studying molecular details of the virus’s interaction with host cells, with an aim to identifying antiviral therapies and potential ways to improve vaccine strategies.

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Virus origin

Covid-19 Virus

Researchers are working to trace when and how the current coronavirus first transmitted from an animal to a person. By knowing this, they can explore what factors made it possible for the virus to spread. Teams at Roslin are also investigating similarities between the latest virus and other related viruses.

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Covid-19 tracker

Tracking Covid-19

Roslin researchers are part of the Scottish Covid-19 Response Consortium and are adapting their models, data analysis and visualisation tools to determine patterns of Covid-19 transmission in Scotland and wider UK. In related work, scientists are developing computer models to help health bodies better understand regional differences in risks and to plan for changes in control. Researchers are also developing methods to track the novel coronavirus via municipal wastewater.

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Scientific publications

Media coverage

Expert comment in the media

  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard and Professor Rowland Kao comment on the effectiveness of vaccine passports as a control measure against Covid-19 spread The Herald
  • Professor Rowland Kao comments on the fall of Covid cases in the UK – The Guardian, The Times, The Sun
  • Professors Rowland Kao and Neil Mabbott on Covid vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds – The IThe IDaily MailThe ScotsmanThe Guardian
  • Dr Eleanor Gaunt comments on the value of using face masks and the Track and Trace app – The iBBCThe Independent
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard said the rise in new Covid-19 cases was starting to slow down – The Scottish Sun
  • Prof Rowland Kao talked to Le Figaro about Covid-19 restrictions and to The Guardian about the likelihood of lockdown easinglifting restrictions and holding back a third wave
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard recommends coronavirus testing for fans at the Euro2020 fan zone in – BBC Scotland
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard comments on travel restrictions - Daily Mail
  • Prof Rowland Kao talked to Le Figaro about Covid-19 restrictions and to The Guardian about the likelihood of lockdown easinglifting restrictions and holding back a third wave
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard recommends coronavirus testing for fans at the Euro2020 fan zone in – BBC Scotland
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard comments on travel restrictions - Daily Mail
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard speaks about the impact of Covid-19 vaccinations - The Nine
  • Dr Elly Gaunt speaks about the risks of Covid-19 at the Tokyo Olympics - BBC Radio Five 
  • Dr Eleanor Gaunt comments on passenger mixing on arrival at Heathrow - The I Newspaper
  • Professor Neil Mabbott was interviewed about public engagement in relation to vaccines - British Society for Immunology
  • Professor Neil Mabbott - Pfizer vaccine is a triumph of science – and a concrete way out of the crisis - The National
  • Professor Neil Mabbott comments on the J&J vaccine pause in the US – CNBC
  • Dr Christine Tait-Burkard - Coronavirus myths debunked: Popular Covid-19 conspiracies from Facebook fact checked - The Scotsman
  • Professor Rowland Kao comments on the use of surge testing approaches and potential implications on future Covid-related restrictions – The I and The Guardian
  • Professor Rowland Kao is one of the scientists commenting on the UK's Covid traffic light travel plan - The Guardian
  • Professor Neil Mabbott on the level of Covid antibodies in the UK - The I
  • Dr Eleanor Gaunt on vaccine passports, virus variants and how those may impact decisions on where to go on holidays this year. - The I newspaper 
  • Professor Neil Mabbott comments on the safety of Covid vaccines. – Scotsman
  • Dr Eleanor Gaunt writes about Covid human challenge studies in iNews.