The UK government has begun a major long-term antibody study aiming to track the spread of COVID-19.
The study will perform antibody tests on approximately 20,000 people from a cross-section of demographics from across the UK, in order to develop understanding of immunity levels, as well as the duration of immunity, to COVID-19. Participants are required to provide a blood sample once a month for six months, as well as completing a symptom questionnaire, which will then be analysed by the University of Oxford. The preliminary results of this data are expected in June 2020.
The subsequent data will provide insights into the effectiveness of ongoing disease control measures (such as lockdown and social distancing) and help to develop new strategies to limit the impact of COVID-19. At present, it is thought that the majority of people will have no or mild symptoms, with a small proportion developing severe symptoms which result in hospitalisation. Therefore, understanding the levels and extent of immunity to the virus is essential to developing the long-term strategies during this pandemic, particularly as there is no vaccine currently in production.
The commencement of this study comes just days after the first data release from the ONS population study. Together, these studies are aiming to provide a greater insight into infection rates and immunity, as well as at-risk populations. See here for further information.
In parallel, a new study trialling dogs trained to detect COVID-19 asymptomatic people has also begun. The study aims to train dogs, who have previously been trained to detect cancer in patients, to detect the symptoms of the coronavirus before the initial symptoms appear. This would allow for an early, non-invasive method of testing for the virus. See here for further information.