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UK Biobank announces COVID-19 immunity study

Over the weekend, the UK Biobank announced a large-scale long term study to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the general population to help understand immunity and the role of genetics.

The study is being supported by the Department of Health and Social Care and developed by the Wellcome Trust. The Biobank aims to enrol 20,000 of its existing participants and their adult children and grandchildren from England, Scotland and Wales. They aim to conduct antibody tests to determine what proportion of the population has been infected, the length of immunity and why the virus affects people differently.

Participants will be asked to provide a blood sample every month for a minimum of six months using a finger-prick device and fill out a questionnaire on any symptoms they may have experienced. The samples will be processed by the UK Biobank and sent to the University of Oxford for antibody testing. The first results are expected to be available in June, but participants will not be getting comments about their results.

Researchers hope by coupling the antibody data with genetics and lifestyle data, they can help elucidate the differences in infection response.

The data from this study will complement two existing coronavirus surveillance studies in the UK, conducted by the Office for National Statistics and Imperial College.