Obesity as a risk factor for COVID-19

London Met PhD graduate Dr Roham Makki has contributed his expertise on associations between respiratory function and obesity to Public Health England, to aid the pandemic response.

Date: 11 May 2020

Dr Roham Makki, who recently completed his PhD at London Met, has contributed his findings on the associations of obesity with immune or respiratory function with Public Health England. This will help shape their COVID-19 response and enhance our understanding of obesity as a risk factor for adverse outcomes from the virus.

In particular, he has focused on identifying high-risk subgroups of people with obesity and/or hypertension in the hopes of enabling more accurate risk classification, personalised care and effective management strategies. In turn, this could lead to improved clinical outcomes, survival rates and quality of life, with potential applications for patients affected by COVID-19.

He explained: “We know that individuals with obesity and hypertension are generally at increased risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19, and it is important to understand the different factors that contribute to individuals’ risk levels.

“My work to identify high-risk subgroups based on body-composition phenotypes, together with the specific alternations in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure, will enable clinical teams to individualise supportive measures for COVID-19 patients more accurately. This will ensure that patients who face a higher risk of COVID-related complications, as a result of their combined metabolic and haemodynamic profiles, can be allocated the necessary interventions that could save their lives.”

Roham joined London Met in 2014 to do a Master’s degree, which looked at the contributory role of insulin resistance to the relationship between obesity and lung function in adults with asthma. He has presented his research at various major conferences, including the UK Congress on Obesity, the European Obesity Summit and the European Congress on Obesity. He was conferred as a Fellow of the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) in 2018, and has had his peer-reviewed research published in the Annals of Human Biology. He is also a member of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), the leading voice of obesity science, medicine and community in Europe, and the World Obesity Federation (WOF), which drives global efforts to reduce, prevent and treat obesity.