GCU researchers lead Scotland’s participation in the largest study into immunity to COVID-19

By Lynne Haahr

Members of the SHIP research group are excited to be working on COVID-19 research by partnering with Public Health Scotland to carry out the SIREN (Sarscov2 Immunity & REinfection EvaluatioN) study in Scotland. GCU is working with NHS hospitals in Scotland to recruit patient facing healthcare workers to have regular COVID-19-tests and provide blood samples for antibody testing. The SIREN study aims to use the results of these tests to understand whether prior infection with SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) protects against future infection with the same virus. The SIREN study will also monitor vaccine effectiveness.

Meet the SIREN study team at GCU

Professor Lesley Price – SIREN Scotland Lead

Lesley is co-lead of the SHIP Research Group and has a special interest in improving the evidence base for standard and transmission based infection prevention and control interventions with a particular focus on hand hygiene research. Lesley is responsible for coordinating the SIREN study in Scotland by bringing together the GCU team, Public Health Scotland, Scottish Health Boards, NHS Research Scotland and the Chief Scientist Office to deliver the study in Scotland.

Sally Stewart – Research Project Manager

Sally is an experienced project manager who has managed research studies in the NHS and academic institutions. She joined the SHIP research group in 2015 as Research Project Manager for the Evaluation of Cost of Nosocomial Infection (ECONI) study and is also completing a PhD on the epidemiology of healthcare associated infection. Sally is responsible for overseeing the SIREN study in Scotland on a day-to-day basis to ensure study deliverables are achieved on time, to cost and to a high quality standard.

Dr Lynne Haahr – Data Coordinator

Lynne’s initial research background is in Chemistry but she has spent the last 5 years working in health research and previously worked for the SHIP research group on the ECONI study. Her role on the SIREN study involves working closely with Health Boards to support the operational set up of the study and ongoing data collection and monitoring processes.

What the SIREN study has found out so far

Interim analysis of UK SIREN study data has shown that antibodies acquired from previous COVID-19 infection provides, on average, 83% protection against re-infection for at least 5 months. However, this is not total protection, and it is not known how much longer after five months this protection lasts. While the SIREN study will continue to assess whether protection may last for longer, this means people who contracted the disease in the first wave may now be vulnerable to catching it again. It is important that everyone continues to follow Government guidance to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 infection.

There are still many important questions to be answered about the role of antibodies in providing immunity to COVID-19. The study will continue to follow participants for 12 months to explore how long any immunity may last, the effectiveness of vaccines and to what extent people with immunity are able to carry and potentially transmit the virus. Continuing to recruit hospital based healthcare workers to the study is essential to achieve sufficient numbers to be able to robustly address these questions.

To find out more about the SHIP team, head on to the GCU website, read the rest of our blogs and follow us on Twitter @SHIPGCU

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