Last updated Aug 6, 2020
UK Biobank has taken swift strides to help tackle the global pandemic by by undertaking two major initiatives.
Coronavirus antibody study
UK Biobank has established a major coronavirus antibodies study to understand the extent of past infection in different population subgroups across the UK by inviting UK Biobank participants and their adult children to take a blood sample every month for at least six months.
“Thank you to the 88,000 participants and their 15,000 family members who volunteered for the study to test antibodies. We were over-whelmed by the response and sorry that we could not include everybody – but your support at this time of crisis is very much appreciated.”Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator
Health data available to tackle COVID-19
Crucial data on the health of 500,000 UK Biobank participants are being made on a regular basis to registered researchers worldwide to undertake vital research into the genetic and lifestyle determinants of COVID-19 and its long-term health consequences.
Data from the following health records are available for participants in England:
- COVID-19 diagnostic test data
- Hospital inpatient data
- Death data
We also plan to make the following data available as soon as we can:
- GP (primary care) data
- Critical care data
If you are a registered researcher, please visit the COVID-19 pages of the UK Biobank Data Showcase.
Findings from research using the UK Biobank resource have already started to emerge and results on the genetic and socio-demographic risk factors for the disease are clearer – these can be viewed below.
Obesity and risk of COVID-19: analysis of UK Biobank: Emerging evidence has suggested that those with cardiometabolic diseases are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 and resulting complications, less is known about the relative importance of related lifestyle factors, such as obesity. Results provide early evidence for an association between BMI, waist circumference and COVID-19.
APOE e4 Genotype Predicts Severe COVID-19 in the UK Biobank Community Cohort: People with dementia have been the worst affected by COVID-19. This study used UK Biobank health and genetic data to observe an association between between the APOE e4 gene, which carries a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, with a genetic risk for COVID-19. This could lead to future in-depth research into how APOE4 may influence the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Vitamin D concentrations and COVID-19 infection in UK Biobank: COVID-19 and low levels of vitamin D appear to disproportionately affect black and minority ethnic individuals. Findings do not support a potential link between vitamin D concentrations and risk of COVID-19 infection, nor that vitamin D concentration may explain ethnic differences in COVID-19 infection.
Ethnic and socioeconomic differences in SARS-CoV-2 infection: prospective cohort study using UK Biobank There has been growing concern about why a higher proportion from BAME groups are more at risk of infection. This work demonstrated Black and south Asian groups were more likely to test positive for COVID-19 (with Pakistani ethnicity at highest risk) independent of baseline health and behavioural risk factors. Socioeconomic deprivation attenuated their risk modestly.
Further published findings:
- Microbiology Research: Dynamic linkage of COVID-19 test results between Public Health England’s Second Generation Surveillance System and UK Biobank
- Journal of Public Health: Greater risk of severe COVID-19 in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic populations is not explained by cardiometabolic, socioeconomic or behavioural factors, or by 25(OH)-vitamin D status: study of 1326 cases from the UK Biobank
- Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Association of Asthma and Its Genetic Predisposition With the Risk of Severe COVID-19
- Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Multimorbidity and SARS-CoV-2 Infection in UK Biobank
- Brain, Behaviour and Immunity: Ethnic disparities in hospitalisation for COVID-19 in England: The role of socioeconomic factors, mental health, and inflammatory and pro-inflammatory factors in a community-based cohort study
- Brain, Behaviour and Immunity: Lifestyle Risk Factors, Inflammatory Mechanisms, and COVID-19 Hospitalization: A Community-Based Cohort Study of 387,109 Adults in UK
- medRxiv: Preexisting comorbidities predicting severe COVID-19 in older adults in the UK Biobank community cohort
- medRxiv: Regional differences in daily reported Covid-19 cases show positive genetic correlations with higher socio-economic status and better health at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in England
- medRxiv: Clinical and Genetic Characteristics of Covid-19 Patients from UK Biobank
- medRxiv: Vitamin D status, body mass index, ethnicity and COVID-19: Initial analysis of the first-reported UK Biobank COVID-19 positive cases (n 580) compared with negative controls (n 723)
- Journal of Hepatology: Lack of genetic evidence that fatty liver disease predisposes to COVID-19