Surviving a COVID-19 infection is the outcome we all hope for when we, or people we know, fall ill with the virus. But it’s possible to survive the disease and still suffer from adverse health effects—unfortunately, there are various ways COVID-19 can still do considerable damage to those who “beat” it.
A few months into the pandemic, evidence began to mount that COVID-19 was causing neurological complications in patients, in addition to damaging people’s respiratory, cardiovascular, and other systems. To find out more, I joined more than two dozen scientists and physicians associated with universities in the United Kingdom in forming the CoroNerve Studies Group for the purpose of studying the neurological features of COVID-19.
In June, we were able to present our findings from the first systematic, nationwide UK surveillance study of the breadth of acute complications of COVID-19 in the nervous system. You can read our report, “Neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19 in 153 patients: a UK-wide surveillance study,” published in The Lancet.
So how did we do it? We had to build portals where we could quickly gather, manage, and share data coming in from doctors, scientists, and specialists representing neurology, stroke, psychiatry, and intensive care from every major UK neuroscience body—the Association of British Neurologists (ABN), the British Association of Stroke Physicians (BASP), and the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych).
With the support of my colleagues at Forcepoint, I dove into developing an online network of secure rapid-response case report notification portals for sharing data on the neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19. It was necessary to organize this rapid-response data collection into a hub of portals so as to manage correct data flow. This website had several functions—hosting information for doctors, collecting case reports, enabling cross-disciplinary collaboration between mental health and physical health specialists, and so on.
The members of the CoroNerve Studies Group were then able to study the impact of the virus on the physical brain and nervous system, as well as on mental health. This would provide us with vital knowledge that would ultimately help policy makers shape policy for best handling the large-scale impact of COVID-19 on the population.
Months after our group’s early efforts, rapid-response data collection is less important to the ongoing mission to study the neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19 infection. Our partners like the ABN and BASP have built their own portals for data sharing, but the initiative of the universities to build a rapid-response system was vital in the early stages to ensure data was collected and shared.
As a data scientist at Forcepoint X-Labs with a microbiology background, I was excited to lend my help to a project that was so suited to my particular areas of expertise, and which could potentially help advance our understanding of a deadly disease causing so much pain and economic disruption in the world.