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Children still needed for study on how immune systems respond to COVID-19

Last updated: 09/03/2021

Young people living in the Bristol area are already helping University of Bristol researchers to understand how children’s immune systems respond to COVID-19, but even more children are needed to take part, especially those from ethnic minorities.

Research has shown that people from ethnic minority groups are at greater risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.  It is important that studies into the virus are fully representative of the diverse populations in the UK so researchers can find out why this is.

The aim of the What's the STORY (Serum Testing Of Representative Youngsters) study is to help understand infectious diseases in the UK.  One way people develop protection against infectious diseases is by developing antibodies, either after an infection or following a vaccination.  Researchers are able to measure the antibodies to see how well protected people are from those infectious diseases.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) supported project is being run by the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre (BCVC) at Bristol Medical School, and the Oxford Vaccine Group which is part of the University of Oxford. 

Working with Public Health England, the research team will develop a new way of surveying how well protected people are from infectious diseases by collecting blood samples from people who represent different groups across society.

Researchers will take a blood sample from children aged from zero to 19 years of age to look at their antibody levels against important infectious diseases. The study team is particularly interested in Group C meningococcus (MenC), diphtheria and COVID-19, which is a new human virus.

Dr Marion Roderick, the study’s lead investigator, visiting Senior Lecturer at Bristol Medical School and consultant paediatrician at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said: “The scientific community's understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is improving every day. This research will help us understand whether we need to make any changes to the UK vaccine schedule and will tell us about the number of COVID-19 infections in the UK.

“From the research carried out so far it has become clear that people from minority ethnic groups are at greater risk of becoming sick with COVID-19 and we need to understand why and tackle this urgently through health research.  If you are interested in helping with the study and you live in the Bristol area, please call the What's the STORY team on 0117 342 0160.”

The study team is especially keen to hear from people from minority ethnic groups aged 0-19 from any Bristol postcode and children from birth to five years from any ethnicity from postcodes: BS2, BS3, BS8, BS20, BS37, BS41.

Participants will need to make one visit to the clinic, for a blood sample, which will take approximately 45 minutes. 

The study team hope to recruit all participants by the end of April 2021. 

Participation in the study is voluntary and a £20 voucher will be offered for taking part.  Participants will have the right to withdraw at any point.

To find out more about the study and how to take part, visit the What's the STORY website, email story-study@bristol.ac.uk or tel 0117 342 0160.