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Principal Investigator
Name
Elizabeth North
Degrees
Ph.D.
Institution
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Position Title
Associate Professor
Email
About this CDAS Project
Study
PLCO (Learn more about this study)
Project ID
PLCO-617
Initial CDAS Request Approval
Apr 24, 2020
Title
COVID: Using environmental data and modelling to test the hypothesis that spatial and seasonal patterns in vitamin D deficiency are associated with hospitalizations and mortality due to COVID-19
Summary
The objective of this proposed research is to test the hypothesis that spatial and temporal patterns in vitamin D deficiency contribute to the proportion of people who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 and are hospitalized, as well as to the proportion of those hospitalized with COVID-19 who die from the infection. Diverse environmental and human health datasets and multivariate spatial statistical models will need to be integrated and applied to address this hypothesis because Vitamin D deficiency is tied to spatial and seasonal patterns in ultraviolet (UV) radiation and to age, gender, skin pigmentation, diabetes and human behavior patterns – several factors of which also are related to COVID-19 comorbidities and at risk groups.

This research will deepen our understanding of processes that may influence the spread of COVID-19. Two integrated teams will conduct this research, one focusing on statistical modeling of vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 at broad temporal and spatial scales, and the other focusing on detailed cellular processes within the human immune system via literature review. By integrating these two teams, statistical analyses will be informed by a mechanistic understanding of the innate immune systems and its role in combating COVID-19.

Should the hypothesis be substantiated, this research will directly and immediately support improved understanding of the factors that influence the spread of COVID-19. In addition, this research will provide an enhanced understanding of the interactions between environmental factors and human health, especially related to vitamin D deficiency and disease outbreaks.
Aims

-- Conduct an extensive literature review to understand and elucidate the mechanisms which underlie vitamin D synthesis and deficiency, and its role in shaping physiological response to inflammation and infection.

-- Integrate and analyze diverse data sets from environmental, human behavioral, and health sciences including serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D), UV radiation, temperature, and humidity as well as important co-factors such as age, gender, skin pigmentation, body mass index, smoking history, time spent outdoors, indicators of socioeconomic status like education and income, and patterns in mobility or self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

-- Use a range of non-linear modeling techniques, both statistical and machine learning, to conduct tests forl relationships in the observational data on vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 illness after accounting for appropriate co-factors.

Collaborators

Dr. Sook Chung, Ph.D., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Dr. Jacob Cram, Ph.D., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Dr. Klaus B. Huebert, Ph.D., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Dr. Rosemary Jagus, Ph.D., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Dr. Vyacheslav Lyubchich, Ph.D., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Dr. Stanley P. Watkins, Jr., M.D., retired, past director of Anne Arundel Medical Center Oncology Center
Dr. Stanley P. Watkins, III, M.D., Alaska Heart Institute