Newsletter 2020: Enabling vital research into coronavirus
We have, through your support over the last year, taken swift strides to help tackle the global pandemic by undertaking several major initiatives.
Expanding health data
Crucial health data on all 500,000 participants are being made available to researchers on a regular basis for the purpose of COVID-19 related research. These data come from hospital records (including critical care), GP records, COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and death registries.
This extra layer of detail about your health, coupled with the genetic and lifestyle data already available in UK Biobank, makes this dataset unique, unparalleled and potentially transformative in the types of research it enables. UK Biobank data will help researchers better understand the extent to which genetic, medical and lifestyle factors affect whether a person experiences mild or severe symptoms of COVID-19, how quickly they recover and what are the long term health consequences of this infection.
Getting your kids, and their kids, involved
For the first time ever, UK Biobank invited participants and their adult children and grandchildren to provide samples of their blood every month for 6 months to determine the extent of past infection with coronavirus across the UK and to investigate how antibody levels change over time. The £3 million study was funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and collected samples from May to November 2020. The rapid speed at which the study was set up meant that we were able to look at the extent of past infection across the UK during the first wave of the pandemic and the start of the second.
We were overwhelmed with support to join this study, with over 116,000 individuals volunteering in just 4 weeks! This meant we could quickly select 20,000 individuals to monitor the rates of past coronavirus infection across all ages, ethnic groups and regions. We were delighted to receive more than 90% of samples each month and look forward to sharing our findings with you.
We are very grateful for your ongoing support. Thank you!
A unique picture of COVID-19
In 2021, we plan to invite all of you to join a study to see who has coronavirus antibodies by sending you a self-test kit that you can take at home. It will involve taking a fingerprick amount of blood and you will see the results in about 20 minutes. These data will be crucial to enable scientists to understand the longer-term health consequences of this infection among those who have had no symptoms at all, as well as those who have had severe COVID-19 symptoms (including “long-COVID”). The Department of Health and Social Care have donated all half a million home testing kits for the purpose of this study.
Based on this information, we also plan to invite participants who have previously attended an imaging assessment (some of whom have positive antibodies, and some who have not) to return for a second imaging visit. This will be the only study in the world to have imaging data from participants both before and after coronavirus infection and will enable novel scientific discoveries about the effect of the virus on internal organs, such as the heart and brain (by comparing imaging measures before and after infection).
Please be assured that all national COVID-19 guidelines will be adhered to and regular deep cleaning of the assessment centres will take place. The safety of our participants and staff are of paramount importance.
Newsletter 2020: Useful links