In the middle of April 2020, the UZH Foundation launched a fundraising campaign for urgent research projects tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The focus is on research into antibodies to determine immunity, spread of the disease, and improvements in treatment. At the start of the pandemic in Switzerland, UZH News talked to three UZH researchers about their work. Now, in the second wave, we return to ask them what progress has been made.
Evaluating the spread of the coronavirus
Professor Milo Puhan, director of the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute, coordinates the Swiss-wide study Corona Immunitas which is intended to bring clarity to the great unknown: How many Swiss residents have already formed antibodies against COVID-19? In the midst of the second wave he explains the data obtained to date about the spread of the virus and stresses in particular the importance of people acting with solidarity.
Videos: Evaluating the spread of the coronavirus
Understanding the immune response
To effectively manage the Covid-19 pandemic and a sensible easing of the lockdown measures, it is vital that we gain an in-depth understanding of the immune response. The team working with Professor Alexandra Trkola of the Institute of Medical Virology are investigating the antibody response in detail and thereby supporting the development of a new vaccine. They have also now developed a simple and effective new type of diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2.
Videos: Understanding the immune response
Predicting patients at high risk for severe Covid-19
Professor Onur Boyman of the Department of Immunology wants to find out how to recognize potential severe cases of the infection, so that high-risk patients can receive quicker and more effective treatment. What he has observed at USZ to date confirms that active pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, certain heart and lung diseases, obesity and active cancer can have a negative impact on the disease’s progression. In severe cases in younger people, however, a more complex picture emerges than originally assumed.
Videos: Predicting patients at high risk for severe Covid-19