Major grant to Brighton for urgent research into air transmission of COVID-19
University of Brighton atmospheric expert Kevin Wyche has received an urgent response research grant to further his work on COVID-19 transmission in the air.
Dr Wyche – Principal Lecturer in Atmospheric Science at the School of Environment and Technology (SET) – will investigate how exposure to airborne fine and ultrafine particulate matter may be a key determining factor in COVID-19 infection and outcomes within the UK.
“Fine particles (PM2.5) aren’t comprehensively monitored or well-legislated for, and ultrafine particles (UFP) neither routinely monitored nor legislated for at all. As such, datasets for these important parameters are scarce/non-existent,” points out Dr Wyche. “Which means there exists a major gap in health-relevant information for a range of health-based studies that could be relevant to COVID-19 (and other respiratory viral) infections and outcomes.”
In a previous UKRI-funded research project – ‘The Hidden Rise in Toxic Air Pollution‘ (HRITAP) – Dr Wyche gathered a unique dataset of ambient levels of PM2.5 and ultra fine particles and their constituents at seven locations across England. The new research will analyse the interaction between particle and constituent data, and merge this information with air pollution data and health datasets. “This will enable future nuanced analyses of short-term air pollution influence on respiratory disease and COVID-19 morbidity and mortality,” says Dr Wyche. “Improving the datasets in this way will protect public health going forward.”
The recent landmark coroner’s ruling on the link between air pollution and the death of young Londoner Ella Kissi-Debrah brought home the impact of air pollution generally on our health and well-being. “Air pollution is a hugely important issue for society today, with poor air quality responsible for an estimated 310,000 premature deaths in Europe alone, and for imposing a burden of up to €189 billion on the European economy,” Dr Wyche points out.
Dr Wyche’s project is one of several urgent research projects to receive new funding from Health Data Research UK, the Office for National Statistics and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with the aim of providing vital national data to answer key COVID-19 research questions. Other projects to receive the new funding include a study of long-COVID, a look at differences in susceptibility and risk factors between ethnic groups, and a new probe into transmission of COVID-19 in schools.