UCT researcher to present novel COVID-19 study at global cardiology congress

27 August 2021 | Story Lisa Hadeed, Nobhongo Gxolo. Photo Supplied. Read time 5 min.
Prof Karen Sliwa, cardiologist and director of the Cape Heart Institute at UCT, has initiated and lead many multi-centre, multi-country African and global studies.
Prof Karen Sliwa, cardiologist and director of the Cape Heart Institute at UCT, has initiated and lead many multi-centre, multi-country African and global studies.

Professor Karen Sliwa of the multi‑disciplinary and interprofessional Cape Heart Institute (CHI), based in the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Department of Medicine, is the principal investigator (PI) on the WHF [World Heart Federation ] COVID‑19 and Cardiovascular Disease Global Study. It has been accepted for presentation at the largest global cardiology congress, the prestigious Late Breaking Trial Session at the European Society of Cardiology congress this August. The full publication is expected later this year.

According to Professor Sliwa, less than 5% of all published reports on COVID‑19 come from the Global South, with less than 1% of these from the African continent. In fact, of all global research studies, less than 5% have a woman PI. Sliwa is at the helm of this new study which will have its findings presented at the congress on 27 August. Presentation of the data in this prestigious session takes on greater significance during Women’s Month, especially with Sliwa being the previous president of the WHF.

 

“This study has spawned a learning platform that can ultimately benefit communities, patients and practitioners.”

“In demanding circumstances facing a pandemic, we can easily become silos; but this study has spawned a learning platform that can ultimately benefit communities, patients and practitioners who might otherwise be excluded from global research and data,” said Professor Prabhakaran Dorairaj of the Public Health Foundation of India, one of the coordinating groups of the study along with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control.

Of the expected 5 000 patients who will be involved in the study, over 4 800 have been recruited so far from 38 sites in 24 countries – mainly from the Global South.

Additionally, an estimated 79% of the participants come from eight African countries, as well as from Latin America and South-east Asia. A cohort of this size, coming from this environmental context, is crucial in developing a better understanding of the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic in low‑ to middle‑income countries – especially because most research has focused on the data available from developed economies.

Analysis of the first half of the patient cohort is proving vital in many ways, including in narrowing the knowledge gap about disease progression and the medical and social burden in particularly hard‑hit areas in order to strengthen clinical practice and decision‑making.

Sliwa commented: “The study is also unique through its inclusion of a younger population, with an average age of 56 years, while also capturing a detailed view of related medical facilities and infrastructure.”

Through this work, a better understanding of COVID‑19 and heart disease will be developed. The ongoing findings are expected to aid the management of COVID‑19 in resource‑poor set-ups, and guide health policy in less-resourced areas and beyond.

A wider lens

More than a year into the pandemic, the study aims to describe outcomes and identify risk factors associated with poor in‑hospital prognoses, with the aim of presenting a full analysis and results later this year.

Sliwa is Director of the CHI, and also a member of UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. She explained: “We applied a wider lens to areas of the world that are often not reflected in much of the emanating research. We believe our findings will offer insights [into] and highlight the needs of communities in ways that are critical to holistic future preparedness and healthcare planning.”

 

“We believe our findings will … highlight the needs of communities in ways that are critical to holistic future preparedness and healthcare planning.”

Recruited patients have exhibited a range of underlying conditions including hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, obesity, kidney disease, tuberculosis and HIV.

In‑hospital deaths were close to 14% while a further 4% succumbed to illness within a month after leaving hospital.

The leading causes of death were respiratory failure and complications of heart failure, including sudden cardiac death. In fact, a third of the deaths were sudden, and not due to lung disease or respiratory failure.

“Our data is rather special, as the population is younger and has different co‑morbidities [to those from previous studies in the Global North]. We also collected specific information on the healthcare set-up – which as you can imagine is different to [that of] the Western countries,” said Sliwa.

An almost accidental yet valuable outcome of the study is an emerging, interconnected group of experts spanning parts of the world that are often under‑served in health provision.

“Many of the hospitals had no cardiologists or respiratory physician specialists, as well as limited advanced care such as ventilators,” she added.

Healthcare workers and cardiologists involved at several sites have been able to strengthen life‑saving efforts at these sites, and build collective knowledge.


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UCT’s response to COVID-19

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March 2020 and to implement a national lockdown from 26 March 2020. UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.

Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, has in June 2022 repealed some of South Africa’s remaining COVID-19 regulations: namely, sections 16A, 16B and 16C of the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions under the National Health Act. We are now no longer required to wear masks or limit gatherings. Venue restrictions and checks for travellers coming into South Africa have now also been removed.

 

Campus communications

 
2022

Adjusting to our new environment 16:50, 23 June 2022
VC Open Lecture and other updates 17:04, 13 April 2022
Feedback from UCT Council meeting of 12 March 2022 09:45, 18 March 2022
Chair of Council
March 2022 graduation celebration 16:45, 8 March 2022
Report on the meeting of UCT Council of 21 February 2022 19:30, 21 February 2022
Chair of Council
COVID-19 management 2022 11:55, 14 February 2022
Return to campus arrangements 2022 11:15, 4 February 2022

UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre

On Wednesday, 20 July, staff from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences came together with representatives from the Western Cape Government at the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre at Forest Hill Residence to acknowledge the centre’s significance in the fight against COVID-19 and to thank its staff for their contributions. The centre opened on 1 September 2021 with the aim of providing quality vaccination services to UCT staff, students and the nearby communities, as well as to create an opportunity for medical students from the Faculty of Health Sciences to gain practical public health skills. The vaccination centre ceased operations on Friday, 29 July 2022.

With the closure of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, if you still require access to a COVID-19 vaccination site please visit the CovidComms SA website to find an alternative.

 

“After almost a year of operation, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, located at the Forest Hill residence complex in Mowbray, will close on Friday, 29 July 2022. I am extremely grateful and proud of all staff, students and everyone involved in this important project.”
– Vice-Chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

With the closure of the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, if you still require access to a COVID-19 vaccination site please visit the CovidComms SA website to find an alternative.


Thank You UCT Community

Frequently asked questions

 

Global Citizen Asks: Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe & Effective?

UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) collaborated with Global Citizen, speaking to trusted experts to dispel vaccine misinformation.



If you have further questions about the COVID-19 vaccine check out the FAQ produced by the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation (DTHF). The DTHF has developed a dedicated chat function where you can ask your vaccine-related questions on the bottom right hand corner of the website.

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“As a contact university, we look forward to readjusting our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in 2023 as the COVID-19 regulations have been repealed.”
– Prof Harsha Kathard, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.

 

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