Professor Peter Wark is working with a team at the Hunter Medical Research Institute on a study to assess how the immune system responds to COVID-19.
They are currently seeking 30 people from the Hunter region who have tested positive to the virus and now recovered to give a small sample of blood for analysis.
Building on his long research career in the respiratory field, Professor Wark is keen to understand the pathologies behind COVID-19. “We know that there are certain cells in the blood that help fight viral infections, but what we don’t know is how these cells respond to the COVID-19 virus,” Professor Wark says. “Over the years we’ve developed a strong understanding of inflammation in people with viral infections like cold and flu, and we want to see whether there are any similarities with COVID-19. We already know there are important differences as to who is affected most by COVID-19, compared to other viruses such as influenza.
“This will enable to us to understand how to treat COVID-19 or its complications more effectively,” Professor Wark says.
After taking a blood sample, the team will then isolate the cells in the blood that help fight viral infections, and test them to see how they are responding to the COVID-19 infection.
“We will compare the responses measured with COVID-19 affected cells with responses we’ve measured in research using other viruses we’ve studied in the lab,” Professor Wark adds.
There is still little understanding of how COVID-19 affects the human body – and how the body responds to the infection, so it’s hoped that with the help of people who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Hunter, we can build a picture of how the virus works, and how our bodies fight it.
Since putting out a call on social media on 29 April, 15 people have come forward and offered to participate, meaning the team is already halfway to their total.