NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE)

RESPIRE collaboration announces a further four projects to tackle COVID-19

The projects will address COVID-19-related research priorities and gaps, as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This is the second group of COVID-19 studies to be announced from the collaboration, with four previously announced in May 2020.

Each project builds on existing partnerships and expertise from colleagues in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Pakistan. The studies will be conducted by RESPIRE partners in each country, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

Testing and tracking the spread of infection

Serological tests are blood-based tests which can be used to identify whether people have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19) by looking at their immune response.

Monitoring data from these tests can provide an indication of the levels of infection and immunity within a population – a potentially powerful tool in the fight against the pandemic, and recognised in the WHO Global Research Roadmap for COVID-19.

Two of the newly announced studies under RESPIRE will look at serological testing; with a monitoring programme being established in rural Western India to track transmission of the virus, and a group in Pakistan developing cost-effective, sensitive and rapid screening kits to be produced in the country.

Effective, low-cost treatment

In the absence of a suitable vaccine, there is an urgent need for a safe and effective treatment that can be used globally.

Nasal washing is an old practice, thought to have originated in Asia. A previous study, lead by a team in Edinburgh, found that nasal washouts and gargling with salty water (hypertonic saline) may be helpful in reducing the length of illness in those suffering from the common cold – including those caused by coronaviruses.

Based on these findings, a team in Pakistan will evaluate whether the practice is effective in reducing the duration of illness in those with clinically suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

If found to be effective, this homemade, inexpensive, safe and scalable intervention will have the benefits of reducing the severity and length of illness and reducing household transmission.

Building capability and capacity in digital health solutions

With populations reducing face-to-face contact across the world, COVID-19 has demonstrated the need to rapidly develop and implement digital health solutions at scale.

A project based in Malaysia aims to support low and middle income countries to develop capability and capacity in digital health innovations, through a training and mentorship programme. The team will also look to develop new digital health tools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for use by front line health workers.

More on the funded projects

Read more about the projects at the links below

Sero-surveillance to monitor the trend of SARS-CoV-2 infection transmission in rural Western India

Development of ELISA and rapid testing kits for COVID-19 in Pakistan

Hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for suspected COVID-19

Strengthening digital health research and implementation capacity in response to COVID-19, in low and middle income countries

See all COVID-19 projects under the RESPIRE collaboration