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Coronavirus Diaries: COVID-19 immunity serology testing study

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Olivia Barnes is a Senior Research Nurse at Sherbourne Medical Centre in Leamington Spa. In this series of weekly posts she discusses how COVID-19 is impacting the clinical trials she is working on, as well as her work on studies in response to the virus. Read previous entries here.

Last week we sent two thousand text messages for the anti-malarial drug COVID-19 study – it is a 50/50 randomized split between those taking the drug and self-testing, and those just self-testing. Within a day we had two ladies who contacted the help desk and were eligible. One was allocated to the drug and one just to swabbing. We actually dropped the drugs and kits off to them because we were be able to do that on our way home, though the NIHR are co-ordinating courier services if we need them. It is always the first patients in any study when you find glitches, but all went reasonably well. It will be interesting to see the result, which will take about a week to come back.

And on the self-testing study we have had three patients and the first two came back negative. However, we haven't had any recruits this week so far for either study. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it would have been good if we could have coordinated with 111 services, as that is where people are being told to go in the first instance if they suspect they have COVID-19. However, they were just so busy, I think it would have been difficult.

The study that we have had the best results on is one on serology testing, from the RCGP via Oxford University. It is for patients who had to be attending the surgery for a blood test – we couldn't approach anybody else other than people already having booked for a blood test here at the surgery. They have been given a one page patient information sheet and asked if they mind having an extra tube of blood taken for this research. The patients won’t get results and we won’t get results – it is purely to look at background immunity in the general population.

Of the first 26 patients to come into the surgery, 25 agreed to take part and I've had to order another 50 kits. This could not have happened without the help of our surgery HCA who sees all the patients for blood tests . In addition to her own work, she has helped with this project, taking verbal consent, labelling the samples and even taking the kits to the post office at the end of her shift.

People are quite happy to help the NHS and are quite altruistic - it's a lovely thing to see. I see it in my normal working day - we do a lot of research here at Sherbourne and our patients are very aware of that – and in general we don't have a problem getting volunteers even for a Phase II or early Phase III studies.

I’m also having to do some education myself around COVID-19 so I can help patients with background information. The World Health Organization has a really good page showing the difference between the serology testing - what they're trying to do and what tests are available.

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