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Peers hear of ‘surprising gaps’ in UK’s Covid-19 research

Image: Carolyn Speranza [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Scientists say there is need for more research into neurological effects of coronavirus

The UK government should consider funding more neurological research on Covid-19, leading scientists have said.

While support from government for research on coronavirus has been “incredible”, there have been “surprising gaps”, specifically in terms of neurological research, according to Tom Solomon, chair of neurology and director of the National Institute for Health Research, Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool.

“We don’t yet have any specific large funding programmes in this area,” Solomon told peers during a House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee hearing on the Science of Covid-19 on 15 September.

He added that there was a need to understand how the virus triggered neurological problems despite there being no sign of it in the central nervous system.

Sebastian Brandner, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, agreed, telling peers it was important to understand how the disease affects the brain.

While “fantastic” studies had provided insight into how the systemic effects of Covid-19 affect the nervous system, “very often this is where it ends”, he said.

He described the pathology community’s general response to Covid-19 as “enthusiastic” but added there was a “gap”, in that “very often not enough patients who died of Covid-related illnesses with or without central nervous system involvement have actually undergone an autopsy, despite the availability of mortuaries”.