Faculty of Health Sciences students at the University of Cape Town have formed a special COVID-19 research task team to act as the official voice for COVID-19-related research projects and other interrelated functions in progress in the faculty.
In a statement, the university said the task team was formed as a subgroup of a broader group of academics, convened by the Dean of Health Sciences, Professor Lionel Green-Thompson, to coordinate teaching, clinical services, administration and social responsiveness initiatives.
Director of Research at the FHS and research task team coordinator, Dr Yolande Harley said following the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa and the subsequent lockdown, staff in the faculty received many requests for information about how research should be managed, how researchers could get involved with COVID-19 projects and the “rules” around COVID-19 research in particular.
The task team’s first priority was to establish the faculty’s approach to research-related activities during the pandemic.
The document summarised key points, which includes prior COVID-19 communication, and provides additional information to “ensure appropriate research practice”.
Research into COVID-19 currently underway, or in advanced stages of planning in the faculty, aims to understand a combination of primary, secondary and tertiary interventions to achieve “a meaningful degree of protection” against the disease.
Primary interventions refer to those that prevent patients from contracting the disease, supported by research on vaccine development.
Secondary interventions involve detecting the disease and preventing it from exacerbating, supported by research on diagnosis tools, screening strategies and pathogenesis.
Tertiary interventions concentrate on how to manage the disease and involve research on how to treat COVID-19 complications like cardiovascular, neural and respiratory problems.
Behind the scenes
Harley said that there’s been a hive of research activity progressing behind the scenes (while adhering to lockdown regulations). Each area, while different, has one common goal – to contribute to better managing the pandemic in the country and coming up with ways to deal with other future outbreaks.
“Quite a number of research groups in the FHS are planning and progressing [on] research projects that focus on the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“These studies are tackling a range of challenges related to the virus and the disease it causes.”
She said researchers are attempting to understand the process in which the virus spreads in the country, as well as how susceptible South Africans, including those infected with HIV and tuberculosis, are to COVID-19.