Medical research in the peak of COVID-19 pandemic was reduced by 87 %

While COVID-19 pandemic might have locked you in your own home, the story was completely different for the medical personnel. Some doctors came out of retirement to stand in the frontlines to reduce the impact of this disease and help people to recover. However, a new study led by UCL showed that at the same time clinical research was significantly reduced. Why?

It is important to continue with medical research of various diseases even in the midst of the global pandemic. Image credit: governortomwolf via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

You’re probably reading more and more news about the COVID-19 pandemic lately. People are talking about the second wave, but the truth is that we never fully finished dealing with the first one. Scientists noticed that the intensity of clinical research decreased significantly during the pandemic. This is a bit worrying, because medical research is as important as ever, but at the same time it wasn’t surprising.

When the infection rate in the UK reached 10 % (around April) less than 400 of the 3,200 (13%) full-time clinical academics in England were working. One of the reasons why was that those academics dropped their research and went to the frontlines to help people. Scientists say that these are bad news, because in the midst of the pandemic clinical research was one of the more important ways to respond to new challenges. Scientists are needed to study new versions of vaccines and develop more effective treatments. Dr Amitava Banerjee, lead author of the study, said: “We know that a high coronavirus infection rate is bad for public health and the economy.  Using data modelling in a number of different scenarios, our findings show that COVID-19 can also have a profound effect on the ability of clinical academics to mount a research response to the pandemic”.

It may seem to you that there is still a lot of medical research happening, particularly focusing on COVID-19. However, this is a bit of an illusion, because  academic capacity has been affected heavily by the challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists say that it is important to preserve the academic capacity of medical science not just to advance the COVID-19 research, but also to continue with studies of other diseases. Careful planning and efficient organization could leave enough personnel for clinical efforts as well as academic research.

Scientists say that even in times of emergency like this we cannot forget prioritizing medical research. It is absolutely crucial for thousands of people. Depriving this sector to benefit the frontline efforts is unavoidable, but focus on the research could help avoiding further outbreaks and the second wave. Scientists are like important resources and in times like this it is important to use your resources efficiently.


Source: UCL

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