WEHI is finding better ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent coronavirus diseases to help with the current pandemic and be ready for future outbreaks.
WEHI’s longstanding expertise in infectious disease research will help us discover:
Some of our current COVID-19 research projects include:
It is not yet clear why some people develop serious complications from COVID-19 infections, while others have mild or no symptoms. WEHI’s computational biology researchers are tackling this question in two separate studies.
A collaboration with scientists at QUT, the University of Queensland and Hospital Marcelino Champagnat in Curitiba, Brazil, seeks to discover ‘genetic signatures’ of people who develop severe COVID-19, with a focus on severe lung inflammation. This research has already revealed that the activity (expression level) of a gene involved in inflammatory signalling can predict which COVID-19 patients will develop severe disease.
A separate study, in collaboration with the Doherty Institute, the Melbourne School of Engineering and international genomics company Illumina, has developed the ID Predict platform to understand the many factors that contribute to the severity of COVID-19. This incorporates information about a person’s immune system, genome, microbiome and metabolism, as well as viral factors.
These projects have the potential to identify people who are at highest risk from COVID-19, and have the greatest need of healthcare interventions to prevent and treat this disease. A better understanding of why severe COVID-19 develops may also potentially leading to new therapeutic targets.
‘Long COVID’ is a syndrome that persists for weeks or months after an initial COVID-19 infection. Its symptoms include fatigue, pain, and respiratory and heart problems. It is thought 20-30 per cent of people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus develop long COVID-19, with women at higher risk than men. WEHI scientists are collaborating with the Institute of Translational Medical Research in Argentina to discover immunological and molecular signatures in people diagnosed with COVID-19 that predict who will develop long COVID. This research may lead to a better understanding of the causes of long COVID, and may potentially even lead to better therapies for this poorly understood syndrome.
Coronaviruses are a type of virus that usually affect our breathing system. There are different kinds of coronaviruses, and some can cause mild upper respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Others can cause more serious lung diseases like pneumonia that can result in serious illness or death.
Coronaviruses have been around for a long time, and usually our bodies can fight these. However, some animals can carry a different, stronger, type of coronavirus. When people catch these types, our immune systems may not know how to fight it as well. Our bodies’ lack of familiarity is why SARS, MERS and COVID-19 spread so fast, and made huge populations of people unwell.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new kind of coronavirus, and it usually causes a cough, sore throat or fever that lasts for about two weeks. Most people recover from it, but older people and those with other health problems can get very sick from it.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19, and our researchers are contributing to the global research effort to help combat this emerging viral disease, and any future coronavirus outbreaks.
COVID-19 is also sometimes called SARS-CoV-2.
People who are most likely to get coronaviruses are those who:
Those at risk of becoming very sick from coronaviruses include:
The majority of infections with coronaviruses are mild, causing the common cold, and are not formally diagnosed.
To diagnose coronaviruses, a test usually involves taking a sample of fluid from the nose or throat.
For COVID-19, people can test themselves using a rapid antigen self-test (RAT). In certain cases, a doctor or clinic may conduct a PCR test.
People with mild coronavirus symptoms, such as a runny nose or fever, can treat it like they would treat a common cold or the flu. They should rest at home and drink plenty of fluids. They may choose to take medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with any pain or fever.
In Australia, antiviral medications are available as a COVID-19 treatment for people who are at higher risk of having complications.
People with serious coronavirus complications may require hospitalisation, breathing support and protection from other germs that may worsen the disease.
Our researchers are taking a number of different approaches to discover and develop new medicines to treat people with COVID-19 and to reduce the number of cases arising in the community worldwide.
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself against getting COVID-19, and also reduce the spread and severity of the disease if you do contract it.
Up-to-date advice is available from the Australian Department of Health.
Information about COVID-19 is rapidly being updated. Your local health department can provide information most relevant to your situation. Please note that WEHI cannot specific medical advice to individuals.
Sources of accurate information include: