Around 280 health Trust staff take part in COVID-19 immunity trials

Around 280 staff from the Southern Health Trust have volunteered to take part in a major national study into COVID-19 immunity.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 12:32 pm

Thanking the staff, the Trust said recruitment to the year long ‘SIREN’ (SarsCoV2 Immunity and Reinfection Evaluation) study is now closed.

Participants are providing regular swab and blood samples which are being monitored to see if having been exposed to COVID-19 prevents future infection.

A spokesperson for the Trust said: “The Trust is making a significant contribution to international COVID-19 research, having recruited hundreds of participants for a range of COVID-19 clinical trials and studies.

The outstanding success of the Study has very much been as a result of the enthusiasm of the local research team led by Dr Angel Boulos, Consultant Microbiologist and Principal Investigator; Fiona Thompson, Eimer McGeown and Mandy Adamson (Clinical Research Nurses); the Occupational Health Testing Pod staff (led by Sally Cunningham); the Laboratory staff (led by Kevan Duffin and Gary Warnock); the SIREN administrative support officer (Cheryl Harrison); and the Research & Development staff.

“The SIREN study is being delivered across the UK in collaboration with Public Health Agencies in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. The Southern Trust was the first in Northern Ireland to open the study in November 2020, with a target to recruit 250 participants.”

Leading the project for the Trust is Dr Angel Boulos, Consultant Microbiologist explains: “As COVID-19 is a new disease caused by the novel virus SARS-CoV-2, we have much to learn about how our immune system responds to it.

“By following healthcare workers who are at greater risk of exposure, we hope to answer some of our many questions for example, if you had COVID-19, can you be infected again, or how long might you be protected by antibodies and can you continue to transmit to others.

“We also want to explore trends in who may be more or less affected, for example by age or ethnicity and hopefully enrich information around how effective the vaccine is.

The Consultant Microbiologist added: “Preliminary findings are showing that if you have been infected by COVID-19 you will have some immunity, but we are uncertain how long this will last.

“Crucially, even if you have been infected, we are finding that you can still pass on the virus to someone else so it is absolutely essential that we all continue to wear face coverings, keep our distance and wash your hands regularly,” said Dr Boulos.

“We are absolutely delighted with the response from local health and social care staff who have volunteered to take part in this research.

“This study wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of the research team and the enthusiasm of so many of our colleagues to help us understand COVID-19 better,” said Dr Boulos.

“Hopefully these findings will contribute to improving treatments, outcomes and survival rates from COVID-19 into the future,” said the consultant microbiologist.

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