More than 200 Scottish children recruited for 'Covid Warriors' antibody trial

More than 1,000 children known as ‘Covid Warriors’ are taking part in a UK-wide trial to measure antibodies to coronavirus in healthy youngsters.

A nurse with a 'Covid Warrior' recruited for a major UK-wide antibody trial.
A nurse with a 'Covid Warrior' recruited for a major UK-wide antibody trial.

The trial of children aged between 2-16 includes around 200 from Glasgow whose parents work for the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board and is being run by Queen’s University Belfast.

Participants will have their antibodies measured at the start, known as the baseline, after two months and six months.

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The aim of the study called ‘Seroprevalence of SARS-Cov-2 infection in healthy children’ is to assess the numbers of children who may have had Covid-19, and if they have antibodies that may be able to fight off the infection.

The findings from this study will be important for estimating the proportion of children that have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and have antibodies that may be consistent with immunity.

This data can then be considered as part of planning measures, such as opening schools and routine paediatric services, such as health visiting and paediatric clinics.

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The study is led by Dr Tom Waterfield, researcher from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Northern Ireland and Public Health England.

Dr Waterfield said: “It is unclear what proportion of UK children have been exposed to Covid-19 and how many, if any, have the necessary antibodies to prevent future re-infection.

This important research may help with planning for the reopening of schools and other vital children’s services.”

Health and Social Care Research & Development Division (HSC R&D Division) of the Public Health Agency plays an ongoing role in supporting the conduct of high-quality health and social care research and has provided funding to support the delivery of this important study.

Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of HSC Research and Development, said: “Research studies are vital at this time so that patients can access the best possible treatments which can help tackle the spread of Covid-19.

“The results of this study will provide insights into the exposure of children in the UK to the SARS-CoV-2 virus over an important period of time.”

The study is being delivered in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Public Health England, the Ulster Independent Clinic, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “Our thanks to 150 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde staff and 227 of their children who are taking part in antibody tests.

“This research will help see if children of healthcare workers can develop an ability to fight off the infection.

“Participants are tested three times during the six-month study, with each of them playing a vital role in supporting the research.

“This is just one of the trials we are taking part in to try to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Covid-19.

“Our staff have gone above and beyond to support leading research and development of this disease.”

Dr Shamez Ladhani, Consultant Epidemiologist at Public Health England, said: “This study will play an important part in monitoring SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the community as we move out of lockdown and more children return to school, adding to vital data on antibody and virus prevalence already being collected through PHE’s national surveillance programme.”

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann, said: “I very much welcome the fact that Queen’s University is leading this hugely important UK-wide trial.

“Expert research has a central role in the world’s battle against Covid-19. Our understanding of this virus has already been greatly enhanced at pace but there is still much more to learn.

“My thanks go to everyone involved in this study.”

Meanwhile, men appear to produce higher levels of Covid-19 antibodies than women, figures suggest.

Covid-19 survivors are being sought to donate blood plasma as part of another major trial assessing whether it could help some of the sickest patients.

The trial is ongoing to assess whether convalescent plasma donations can be transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which is collecting the plasma for the trial, said new analysis had found that men produce more coronavirus antibodies than women, which makes them better plasma donors.

The new figures show that 43 per cent of male donors had plasma rich enough in antibodies for their plasma to be included in the trial, compared with 29 per cent of women.

Professor David Roberts, associate director for blood donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We’d still like to hear from anybody who had coronavirus or the symptoms. More plasma donors are needed.

“But we’d especially want to hear from men.

“We test every plasma donation and men have higher antibody levels, which means we’re more likely to be able to use their plasma to save lives.”

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