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Artistic graphic of people from different backgrounds wearing face masks. © Shutterstock

Researchers in the Primary Care Epidemiology Group are launching a new project to determine the risk of infection and death from COVID-19 in individual ethnicity groups, and will seek to explain why these differences might exist.

Their study is part of a £4.3 million investment from UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute of Health Research into research to understand the links between COVID-19 and ethnicity.

Led by Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox, with Dr Hajira Dambha-Miller at the University of Southampton, the team will utilise the QResearch database to combine over 40 million patient GP records across rural and urban areas of England, into what will become one of the largest COVID-19 cohorts in the UK.

The data will enable the team to describe patterns of COVID-19 disease and death according to ethnicity, with statistical modelling utilised to understand these differences.

This study includes an early reporting phase to facilitate the rapid dissemination of its results and identify those most at risk who might benefit from interventions to improve modifiable risk factors.

QResearch is a not-for-profit collaboration between Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox’s research group and Leeds-based EMIS Health. Commenting, Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox said: ‘There is an urgent need for more clarity on the issue of ethnicity and COVID-19 related deaths to identify and protect people who might be most at risk from the virus.

‘The QResearch database that we have created in partnership with EMIS Health over more than a decade provides an invaluable resource for research – offering access to live and historic data from millions of patients around the UK linked to hospital, mortality and COVID-19 test results.

‘Researchers have used QResearch over the years to tackle major health issues such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes; now we can apply it to one of the most pressing challenges of our time, COVID-19.’

The project is one of six announced this week as part of the funders’ rolling call for research proposals on COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer for England and Head of the NIHR Professor Chris Whitty said 'With evidence showing that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are more severely affected by COVID-19, it is critical that we understand what factors are driving this risk to address them effectively.'

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