New database facilitates more efficient research on covid-19
24 August 2021
SCIFI-PEARL may provide researchers with access to registry data for each person diagnosed with covid-19 in Sweden as well as a comprehensive comparison cohort. “This adds an important dimension to covid research,” states Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology.
With the explosive spread of the coronavirus, from the first cases in Wuhan to a large-scale pandemic, medical research is facing unprecedented challenges. The task to, under extreme time pressure, map millions of diagnosed cases in parallel with the development of effective vaccines requires enormous amounts of current and reliable data. At present, the need for new knowledge remains at a high in spite of declining infection rates, and now SCIFI-PEARL is being launched, a database that gathers information from a wide range of Swedish healthcare registers.
“With SCIFI-PEARL, we open many important doors for the scientific community. Our Swedish registers are of high international quality, and by linking them in a continuously updated database, we can provide completely new conditions for register-based research. Demand is high, several interesting studies have already started and even more are under planning, says Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology and the project group’s expert in register studies of the use and effects of medicines.
In focus of the research initiated to date with basis in SCIFI-PEARL is, among other things, to describe covid-19-related morbidity and mortality - in total and in different risk groups - as well as to identify the factors that affect the severity and prognosis of the disease. The pharmaceutical sciences have also recognised the possibilities enabled by SCIFI-PEARL, and currently analyses are conducted regarding the use and effects of statins and antihypertensive drugs in patients vid Covid-19.
“The design and development of SCIFI-PEARL has been led by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in collaboration with several researchers at Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet. It has required time, perseverance and discussions with many stakeholders including the National Board of Health and Welfare, ethics committees and quality registers. Now the foundation is in place and I am convinced that our Swedish data will offer a new and important dimension to a field where the need for rapid results has sometimes led to scientific shortcomings,” Björn Wettermark ensures.
For researchers, SCIFI-PEARL offers relevant data on virtually every person diagnosed with covid-19 in Sweden. The database retrieves material from nearly twenty national registers and is updated every two months with newly discovered cases as well as current information about each person. The base also includes a comparison cohort, encompassing almost 10 percent of the Swedish population. SCIFI-PEARL is managed at the Register Center in Västra Götaland, while the linking is conducted by the National Board of Health and Welfare, that also pseudonymises every data so that no individual can be identified.
“In July, we published an article in the Clinical Epidemiology journal where we in detail present SCIFI-PEARL. We are now beginning to see the first results. The Swedish registers offers many opportunities, but it is important to acknowledge that covid-19 is in many ways a competitive research area. The project has received funding from different grants- One of them is a Nordic co-project and will hopefully soon welcome a guest researcher to our group for work directly related to SCIFI-PEARL, says Björn Wettermark.
- Swedish Covid-19 Investigation for Future Insights-A Population Epidemiology Approach Using Register Linkage (SCIFI-PEARL) is a nationwide linked multi-register, regularly updated, observational study for timely response to urgent scientific questions.
- SCIFI-PEARL is initiated by Fredrik Nyberg, Guest Professor of Register Epidemiology at the University of Gothenburg
- At Uppsala University, Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, and Johan Sundström, Professor of Epidemiology and Cardiologist at the Uppsala University Hospital, participate in the work with SCIFI-PEARL.
- Swedish Covid-19 Investigation for Future Insights – A Population Epidemiology Approach Using Register Linkage (SCIFI-PEARL) (Clinical Epidemiology, Vol. 13, 2021)