By measuring antibodies for the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 it will reveal the proportion of the population that has been infected.
20,000 UK Biobank participants, their children and grandchildren (aged over 18) have been selected to take part.
We are collecting and analysing blood samples and information from those participating. 97% of samples were returned in month one.
First results: month 1
The results on 20,000 samples from study participants have been analysed in the UK Biobank COVID-19 antibody study. The 20,000 volunteers, a combination of existing UK Biobank participants and their children and grandchildren aged over 18, have helped to produce results that are representative of the UK population. Summary information on the results and the full report can be found below.
View the full report: UK Biobank SARS-CoV-2 Serology Study
View background to the study: The UK Biobank COVID-19 antibody study
These first results provide a snapshot for May and June of past SARS-CoV-2 infection, revealing that:
Overall in the study, 7.1% of the participants had been infected previously.
Previous infection was most common among participants who live in London (10.4%), and least common among those who live in the South-West of England and Scotland (4.4% in both).
There was no difference in the rates of previous infection between men and women, but the rates were higher in younger participants (from 10.8% in those under 30 to 5.4% in those over 70).
Participants living in areas with higher levels of socio-economic deprivation had a higher rate (8.9%) of previous infection than those who live in more affluent areas of the country (6.1%).
The rate of previous infection was higher among participants of Black (11.3%) and South Asian (9.0%) ethnicity than among those of White ethnicity (6.9%).
As a result of these independent trends, rates of previous infection were particularly high in certain sub-groups. For example, the rate was 18.4% in participants from ethnic minority groups who are aged under 30 and living in London. However, the differences between ethnic groups were not explained fully by where people lived or by their age.
These initial findings are hugely valuable for assessing the current extent of previous infection. However, if you are one of the volunteers the results from the blood samples that you send us every month until the end of the year will be of even greater importance for monitoring the changes of previous infection over time, as the UK comes out of lockdown, and ultimately assisting in managing the pandemic. Thank you to everyone taking part.
Results: week 1
The results on 3,360 samples from week 1 participants have been analysed in the UK Biobank Coronavirus antibody study. These Week 1 participants included predominantly UK Biobank participants (rather than younger family members) because, in general, they responded sooner and were selected first to be asked to provide blood samples. They therefore tended to be older, of White ethnic background, lived in rural areas and in less socio-economically deprived areas than the study sample as a whole.
View more details on the first results: Professor Naomi Allen’s UK Biobank Scientific Conference 2020 slides