Students at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) have helped answer a question about the potential dangers posed by blood pressure medication for those infected with Covid-19.
The trainee doctors participated in a systematic review, used for evidence-based medicine and so may help healthcare professionals take medical decisions.
The study examined whether a certain family of blood pressure-lowering medications (RASS inhibitors) may upregulate the expression of ACE2, which is the protein that SARS-CoV-2 uses to invade cells, and so increase the risk of infection or severity of the disease.
To test the hypothesis, the review examined the medical data of Covid-19 patients who had or had not been taking the RAAS inhibitors.
Dr Dalia Zakaria, lecturer in biology in WCM-Q’s Department of Premedical Education, led the research and mentored the students.
She said: “We were expecting to find that those patients taking RAAS inhibitors were indeed more likely to be infected by the novel coronavirus or have more serious outcomes once infected. What we actually found, though, was that these drugs have benefits. This is because the main problem with Covid-19 is the hyper-inflammatory state that the virus induces in the patient. These drugs actually reduce the inflammatory response and so could be considered beneficial for those with the disease.”
The first student to participate in the study was Hiba Naveed, a co-first author of the paper. Now in her third year of the medical curriculum, she joined so she could take part in an Advanced Biomedical Science Research project.
Hiba said: “I wanted to be involved for the experience and for the opportunity to learn. One of my fields of interest is cardiology and this research project tied in fairly well with it. In addition, it focused on Covid-19 which I believe is important to learn about considering our current situation.
“My role included screening 1,658 abstracts and 173 full articles followed by data extraction from 14 studies, in addition to contributing to writing the manuscript. Regular meetings on Zoom were held with Dr Dalia in order to discuss the research’s progress along with communication by e-mail whenever needed.”
The sheer number of research papers to review was one of the major challenges of the study; because of the pandemic, the situation was very fast-moving and new data was coming to light all the time.
This led to Abdallah Elshafeey, who is also a co-first author and is now in the fourth and final year of the medical curriculum, joining the research project. He was followed by fellow students Emmad Janjua, Areej Nauman, Hussam Kawas, Ridhima Kaul, Dana al-Ali and Arwa Saed Aldien. Dr Mohamed Elshazly helped review the clinical data and WCM-Q librarian Sa’ad Laws, helped unearth new and relevant research papers.