Parc Taulí studies the relationship between sleep disorders, immunity and the severity of COVID

Parc Taulí studies the relationship between sleep disorders, immunity and the severity of COVID 1080 608 Mireia Córcoles
  • A team of I3PT researchers is working on a research project to test whether individuals with sleep disorders would have a worse immune system response to deal with infectious diseases such as COVID-19

The response to COVID19 infection could be closely related to sleep and a person's innate immunity. Or what it could also be: not sleeping enough or not having quality sleep would not only have an impact on immunity, but would also be closely related to the severity of COVID.

These are some of the hypotheses of the scientific study Cross-talk Sleep and Immunity led by pulmonologists and researchers from the Parc Taulí Research and Innovation Institute (I3PT) Maria José Masdeu i Andrea Grau, which focuses on the relationship between sleep, immunity and the response to infection by COVID19

"The sleep is known as the fourth pillar of health”, affirms Masdeu, who adds: “If a person does not have a healthy sleep – either because they do not keep good schedules or because they have an associated illness – this will have a deleterious impact on their immunity”. "It is clear that sleep and immunity have a two-way relationship". However, what needs to be known is "the relationship between the sleep disorder and the severity that can be experienced by patients with COVID", they point out.

The macro-project Cross-talk Sleep and Immunity

In accordance with this, the two researchers - in collaboration with other professionals from the Sleep Unit of the Parc Taulí, the immunologist Juan Francisco Delgado and the epidemiologist Gema Navarro from the I3PT - have set up a macro-project to to study the relationship between sleep disturbance, severity of COVID infection, and innate immunity of people

In this sense, the project seeks to answer three main hypotheses: have patients with obstructive sleep apnea had more severe COVID? How many COVID patients would have an undiagnosed sleep disorder that may have conditioned the severity of the infection? And do patients with sleep disorders have a weaker immune system to deal with the coronavirus?

To respond, they have divided the project into three phases. The first of them will start from the analysis of a database of 4.000 patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea -"all of them with treatment and in a phase of clinical stability", emphasizes Masdeu- "and we will look at how many had COVID during the pandemic, with the aim to know if they were infected more than the general population, and if they suffered from the disease in a more severe form".

The second phase will analyze whether those patients who passed the More severe COVID patients could have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. In this case, the hypothesis raised by the team is that the sleep disorder of these individuals would have conditioned the severity of COVID that happened

Grau explains that for this study, different clinical parameters of the patients will be evaluated and their sleep will be analyzed through a clock that will be taken to their home to be able to observe if they have any pathology related to sleep".

The final phase of the project will study the innate immunity of patients who have overcome COVID - both those who had it mildly and severely, and those with sleep disorders and those without. In this case, the selection of patients will take advantage of this year's flu vaccination campaign, to be able to analyze how their immune system responds to the vaccine. As the researchers explain, it is expected that people with a sleep disorder who have had severe COVID, have a less responsive immune system. In conclusion, the presence of an untreated sleep disorder would condition a worse immune system response.  

COVID Impact Scholarships

The project received an Impacte COVID grant awarded by the I3PT in the amount of €20.500

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