King’s College London has a reputation as a leading research university. The university was ranked sixth nationally in the Research Excellence Framework’s 2014 report, and seventh in Times Higher Education’s similar rankings. With 84% of KCL research deemed “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”, what is the university working on in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic?
Symptom Tracker App
The app, Covid Symptom Tracker App, was launched in late March by a group of KCL and Guy’s/St Thomas’ hospital researchers, alongside health data science company ZOE. The software allows users to log their own COVID-19 symptoms. This helps track how the virus is spreading in the UK, and warns users of potential hotspots in their area.
Tim Spector, a genetic epidemiology professor at King’s, told the Guardian:
“We are asking about non-classical symptoms as well, because many people are reporting non-persistent cough, or feeling unwell or a strange feeling of a lack of taste, or chest tightness that aren’t in the classical list but if we see it across the country in clusters we know they are probably real.”
According to Spector, the project was put together in five days. There is currently no NHS equivalent to the app, making it the leading software of its kind for COVID-19 research in the UK. You can download it for Android and iOS devices.
Engineers, surgeons, and anaesthetists from KCL and Oxford (OxVent) are collaborating on new ventilator prototypes for use in hospitals. Their emphasis is on types which can be created in small- or medium-sized workshops and universities. The team, led by multiple professors and doctors from both universities, has had success in this venue of COVID-19 related research. King’s has also offered the use of their workshops to manufacture components for design.
The ventilator was recently shortlisted by the UK Government for its next stage of testing. If it passes that stage, it will move into production for use in relevant facilities.
Taste and Smell
A research team at KCL analysing COVID-19 symptoms reported in the above-mentioned app has made preliminary findings. At the time of writing, their test group consists of over 400,000 people. According to their research, 59% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 also reported a loss of smell and taste. The WHO does not currently list these symptoms as related to the virus. Despite this, the researchers have indicated that a correlation is possible. Spector said in a statement that
“when combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be 3 times more likely to have contracted COVID-19 according to our data, and should therefore self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease.”