We are all very shocked and saddened by the effect that COVID-19 is having globally. We hope you are keeping safe and well during these uncertain and difficult times. We understand that some of you will be more affected than others either by being ill yourself, having family members affected, caring responsibilities, working frontline, or by high anxieties around everything that is happening and the impact of the lockdown more generally.
Many of our AIMS-2-TRIALS colleagues have also been significantly affected. Clinician scientists and other healthcare staff have been redeployed to work frontline during the pandemic. Members of the Autism Representatives are also working as frontline healthcare and clinical professionals. Researchers have also been redeployed and fantastic work is being done by the genetics and database team led by Prof Thomas Bourgeron at Institut Pasteur. They are working on developing a global COVID-19 Database for sharing data with European and global partners. Florence Campana is working on data standardisation and logistics, legal challenges and best practice on sharing data to assist researchers in their fight against COVID-19. Professors Grainne McAlonan, David Edwards and Declan Murphy are also launching a study to understand whether COVID-19 infection during pregnancy has an impact on babies’ brain development.
Prof Declan Murphy: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the virus and we are extremely grateful for all the hard work and commitment of our colleagues during this difficult time.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will affect the running of many research projects, including AIMS-2-TRIALS, during next few months. Many universities are closed and/or have requested staff to work from home. In-person research participation at some, if not all, research sites has been temporarily suspended meaning that progress on those research projects will be slower than expected. Researchers are working on ways to address these delays once the lockdowns have been lifted.
AIMS-2-TRIALS consortium member Prof Celso Arango has written a very moving account of his experiences on the frontline in Madrid, the capital of one of the worst affected countries worldwide. He highlights how hospitals have been transformed as only the worst affected are admitted and many psychiatric units have been closed to make space for COVID-19 patients. Celso also discusses how services provided by his Department have changed and staffing has been increased to focus on key goals centred around supporting relatives of patients, possibly in their grieving process, and taking care of staff mental health.
During this time of global difficulty, many individuals and organisations have stepped up to help those most in need. The World Health Organisation has created a clear overview for governments to consider and protect those with disabilities and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Autism-Europe and Autistica have provided information about COVID-19 for the autism community. Autism-Europe launched a survey to understand how the pandemic is affecting the European autism community and Autistica have created a coronavirus resource hub to support the autism community on topics such as mental health and uncertainty. Autistica regularly run expert webinars, which are all available on YouTube.
Thomas Bourgeron’s and Richard Delorme’s teams created a coronavirus kit to help children with autism and their families, which was covered by SpectrumNews. Furthermore, the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid and IRCCS Stella Maris are actively making adjustments to support the autism community in their regions to ensure care and standard of care is upheld.
Many of our other AIMS-2-TRIALS collaborators have provided or contributed to support for the autism community and general public on guidance in these unsure times. A full list of resources can be found below. If any resources are missing and/or your lab/institute made contributions in the fight against the coronavirus, please let us know. We will update this page as more information is provided.
Guidance for the autism community during the COVID-19 outbreak in several languages:
Autism-Europe’s resource list (several languages).
Autistica’s coronavirus resource hub (English).
Inclusion-Europe (several languages): Easy-to-read information about coronavirus.
Institut Pasteur and the Excellence Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (English and French).
Kenniscentrum and Radboud University (Dutch): How to talk to children about coronavirus.