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150th participant recruited to NIHR BioResource Covid-19 research programme at Addenbrooke’s Hospital

The global fight against the coronavirus has been helped with the 150th participant recruited to the Covid-19 research programme.

From the end of March, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource has been collecting samples from patients admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital with suspected Covid-19 to create a ‘library’ of valuable biological samples, which have included blood, nasal and throat swabs.

A mental and physical health questionnaire is also completed, and the the biological samples are separated, analysed and stored as part of a resource for scientists to draw upon when researching treatments, vaccinations or a deeper understanding of Covid-19.

Dr Nathalie Kingston, director of the NIHR BioResource, said: “Since the outbreak, leading experts across the world are coming together to collaborate in joint research projects to help slow down and halt the disease, the NIHR BioResource is no exception.

“Working with our current infrastructure, we have created a new resource where we can easily recruit patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and clinical staff working in the NHS.

“We can then track the disease progression during the participant’s recovery as well as understand any changes to their mental health. We will then be able to harness and use the information for future research trials and improve our knowledge of the disease.

“We have a special interest in enrolling patients under 40 who are admitted to hospital, to better understand their immune response.

“We will also be working alongside paediatrics intensive care units across the country to enrol patients under the age of 16 and their parents.

“The NIHR COVID-19 BioResource doesn’t prevent anyone from taking part in other research studies for Covid-19.

“There are many national research studies taking place and we need as much information as possible if we are going to tackle this disease.”

The 150 participants have included patients with Covid-19, and NHS staff who are either asymptomatic or with mild symptoms who had been self-isolating at home as a precaution.

It has allowed NIHR Covid-19 BioResource to collect samples from participants with the full range of symptoms.

The NIHR BioResource will now seek further participants, and all hospital patients in Addenbrooke’s and The Royal Papworth Hospital with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 are invited to take part in the research.

Researchers will use the information to support current and future research into understanding the disease, including finding new treatments and why some people experience mild symptoms but others are more serious.

Principle investigator professor Ken Smith, from the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, will be analysing the samples collected from Cambridge to understand how the immune responds to the virus.

Professor Smith said: “By understanding more about participants’ immune response to the virus, we hope to find out why some people get severe, and indeed life-threatening, COVID-19 while others have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

“This information will help in the development of effective vaccines and may help doctors to identify people who are more at risk of severe symptoms before they are infected.”

Dr Michael Weekes, Honorary Consultant in infectious diseases, whose primary research focuses on how our cells defend themselves from viruses, is trying to identify people most at risk of severe Covid-19.

Dr Weekes said: “We have been studying blood samples from participants of the NIHR Covid-19 BioResource for use with a technique called 'proteomics'.

“This is where we analyse which proteins are present on the surface of white blood cells from patients with severe or milder forms of Covid-19. This will help us determine when a patient is admitted to hospital with Covid-19 if it is likely they will need to be treated in the intensive care unit.

“We are also looking at healthcare workers who have experienced mild symptoms of Covid-19, or even who have had the virus without any symptoms at all. Staff who have signed up to the NIHR Covid-19 BioResource have provided a small sample of blood to be analysed. This research will help us understand how our body defends itself against the virus, and identify who is most at risk of developing severe Covid-19.”

The NIHR BioResource is a nationwide platform that supports research in a number of health conditions.

It is encouraging more participants who have been hospitalised with Covid-19 to sign up to the research programme.

For more information, visit bioresource.nihr.ac.uk

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