Publications by authors named "R Gunson"

142 Publications

Increasing drug-related mortality rates over the last decade in Scotland are not just due to an ageing cohort: A retrospective longitudinal cohort study.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 May 16:103286. Epub 2021 May 16.

Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK; Health Protection Scotland, 5 Cadogan Street, Glasgow G2 6QE, UK.

Background: In Europe, North America, and Australia, mortality due to drug-related (DR) causes amongst people who inject drugs (PWID) is a major issue. Our objective was to characterise temporal trends in DR mortality rates in a large cohort of PWID in Scotland over the past decade, all of whom had been diagnosed with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, and to investigate factors associated with DR mortality.

Methods: Retrospective longitudinal cohort study linking Scotland's national HCV Diagnosis Database and deaths registry. The study cohort consisted of all individuals with likely injection drug use-related route of HCV acquisition, who had been diagnosed with HCV between 1991 and 2018, and were alive and aged under 65 years on 1 January 2009. We used Lexis expansion to adjust for ageing cohort effects and calculated the mortality rate from an underlying/contributing DR cause over the period 2009-2018. We fitted Poisson regression models to estimate the temporal trend adjusting for attained age, sex, referral setting, region, and viraemic status at baseline.

Results: Amongst the study population (n = 35,065; 236,914 person-years), a total of 1900 DR deaths occurred; the DR mortality rate increased from 5.6/1000 [101 deaths] in 2009 to 12.4/1000 [342] person-years in 2018. Increasing trends were observed for all age-groups except 55-64 years. The overall DR mortality rate was highest for referrals for HCV testing from prison (11.0/1000) and hospital settings (10.0/1000). Mortality increased with calendar time period, with significantly raised adjusted rate ratios (RRs) from 2015 (RR=1.40, 95% CI:1.16-1.69) to 2018 (RR=2.23, 95% CI:1.88-2.64), compared with 2011-2012, for older age (35-44: RR=1.37, 95% CI:1.20-1.56; 45-54: RR=1.32, CI:1.14-1.53) compared with <35 years, for persons diagnosed with HCV since 2009 (RR=1.34, 95% CI:1.21-1.49), and for prison and hospital referrals (RRs of 1.30, 1.37) compared with GP referrals.

Conclusion: Increasing DR mortality rates in Scotland over the past decade are not just due to an ageing cohort. Harm reduction services will likely need to expand and adapt to reverse the recent upward trends in DR mortality in PWID.
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May 2021

Genetic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in renal dialysis units - A high risk community-hospital interface.

J Infect 2021 07 22;83(1):96-103. Epub 2021 Apr 22.

Renal Unit, University Hospital Monklands, Monkscourt Ave, Airdrie ML6 0JS, Canada; Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, 126 University Place, Glasgow G12 8TA, UK.

Objectives: Patients requiring haemodialysis are at increased risk of serious illness with SARS-CoV-2 infection. To improve the understanding of transmission risks in six Scottish renal dialysis units, we utilised the rapid whole-genome sequencing data generated by the COG-UK consortium.

Methods: We combined geographical, temporal and genomic sequence data from the community and hospital to estimate the probability of infection originating from within the dialysis unit, the hospital or the community using Bayesian statistical modelling and compared these results to the details of epidemiological investigations.

Results: Of 671 patients, 60 (8.9%) became infected with SARS-CoV-2, of whom 16 (27%) died. Within-unit and community transmission were both evident and an instance of transmission from the wider hospital setting was also demonstrated.

Conclusions: Near-real-time SARS-CoV-2 sequencing data can facilitate tailored infection prevention and control measures, which can be targeted at reducing risk in these settings.
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July 2021

SARS-CoV-2 Positivity in Asymptomatic-Screened Dental Patients.

J Dent Res 2021 06 29;100(6):583-590. Epub 2021 Mar 29.

West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK.

Enhanced community surveillance is a key pillar of the public health response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Asymptomatic carriage of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a potentially significant source of transmission, yet remains relatively poorly understood. Disruption of dental services continues with significantly reduced capacity. Ongoing precautions include preappointment and/or at appointment COVID-19 symptom screening and use of enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE). This study aimed to investigate SARS-CoV-2 infection in dental patients to inform community surveillance and improve understanding of risks in the dental setting. Thirty-one dental care centers across Scotland invited asymptomatic-screened patients aged over 5 y to participate. Following verbal consent and completion of sociodemographic and symptom history questionnaire, trained dental teams took a combined oropharyngeal and nasal swab sample using standardized Viral Transport Medium-containing test kits. Samples were processed by the Lighthouse Lab and patients informed of their results by SMS/email with appropriate self-isolation guidance in the event of a positive test. All positive cases were successfully followed up by the national contact tracing program. Over a 13-wk period (from August 3, 2020, to October 31, 2020), 4,032 patients, largely representative of the population, were tested. Of these, 22 (0.5%; 95% CI, 0.5%-0.8%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The positivity rate increased over the period, commensurate with uptick in community prevalence identified across all national testing monitoring data streams. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a COVID-19 testing survey in asymptomatic-screened patients presenting in a dental setting. The positivity rate in this patient group reflects the underlying prevalence in community at the time. These data are a salient reminder, particularly when community infection levels are rising, of the importance of appropriate ongoing infection prevention control and PPE vigilance, which is relevant as health care team fatigue increases as the pandemic continues. Dental settings are a valuable location for public health surveillance.
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June 2021

Reduction in the population prevalence of hepatitis C virus viraemia among people who inject drugs associated with scale-up of direct-acting anti-viral therapy in community drug services: real-world data.

Addiction 2021 Mar 2. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, UK.

Background And Aims: There has been little empirical evidence to show the 'real-world' impact of scaling-up direct-acting anti-viral (DAA) treatment among people who inject drugs (PWID) on hepatitis C virus (HCV) viraemia at a population level. We aimed to assess the population impact of rapid DAA scale-up to PWID delivered through community services-including drug treatment, pharmacies, needle exchanges and prisons-in the Tayside region of Scotland, compared with Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) and the Rest of Scotland (RoS).

Design, Setting And Participants: Natural experiment, evaluated using data from national biennial surveys of PWID and national clinical data. Services providing injecting equipment (2010-18) and HCV treatment clinics (2017-18) across Scotland. A total of 12 492 PWID who completed a questionnaire and provided a blood spot (tested for HCV-antibodies and RNA); 4105 individuals who initiated HCV treatment.

Intervention And Comparator, Measurements: The intervention was rapid DAA scale-up among PWID, which occurred in Tayside. The comparator was GGC/RoS. Trends in HCV viraemia and uptake of HCV therapy over time; sustained viral response (SVR) rates to therapy by region and treatment setting.

Findings: Uptake of HCV therapy (last year) among PWID between 2013-14 and 2017-18 increased from 15 to 43% in Tayside, 6 to 16% in GGC and 11 to 23% in RoS. Between 2010 and 2017-18, the prevalence of HCV viraemia (among antibody-positives) declined from 73 to 44% in Tayside, 67 to 58% in GGC and 64 to 55% in RoS. The decline in viraemia was greater in Tayside [2017-18 adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.30-0.75, P = 0.001] than elsewhere in Scotland (2017-18 aOR = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.74-1.07, P = 0.220) relative to the baseline of 2013-14 in RoS (including GGC). Per-protocol SVR rates among PWID treated in community sites did not differ from those treated in hospital sites in Tayside (97.4 versus 100.0%, P = 0.099).

Conclusions: Scale-up of direct-acting anti-viral treatment among people who inject drugs can be achieved through hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and treatment in community drug services while maintaining high sustained viral response rates and, in the Tayside region of Scotland, has led to a substantial reduction in chronic HCV in the population.
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March 2021

A plasmid DNA-launched SARS-CoV-2 reverse genetics system and coronavirus toolkit for COVID-19 research.

PLoS Biol 2021 02 25;19(2):e3001091. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The recent emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the underlying cause of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), has led to a worldwide pandemic causing substantial morbidity, mortality, and economic devastation. In response, many laboratories have redirected attention to SARS-CoV-2, meaning there is an urgent need for tools that can be used in laboratories unaccustomed to working with coronaviruses. Here we report a range of tools for SARS-CoV-2 research. First, we describe a facile single plasmid SARS-CoV-2 reverse genetics system that is simple to genetically manipulate and can be used to rescue infectious virus through transient transfection (without in vitro transcription or additional expression plasmids). The rescue system is accompanied by our panel of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (against nearly every viral protein), SARS-CoV-2 clinical isolates, and SARS-CoV-2 permissive cell lines, which are all openly available to the scientific community. Using these tools, we demonstrate here that the controversial ORF10 protein is expressed in infected cells. Furthermore, we show that the promising repurposed antiviral activity of apilimod is dependent on TMPRSS2 expression. Altogether, our SARS-CoV-2 toolkit, which can be directly accessed via our website at, constitutes a resource with considerable potential to advance COVID-19 vaccine design, drug testing, and discovery science.
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February 2021