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Solent NHS Trust’s Academy of Research and Improvement contributes to innovative research into COVID-19

Important advances in understanding people’s immune response to COVID-19 are being made thanks to a Public Health England study involving Solent NHS Trust’s Academy of Research and Improvement.

The SIREN study got underway at Solent last summer, with the aim of seeing if healthcare workers who became COVID-19 positive had a protective effect against future re-infection of the virus. Over 80 employees were swabbed and had blood tests every fortnight to check for new COVID-19 infections as well as the presence of antibodies, which suggest people have been infected before.

Sarah Williams, Solent NHS Trust’s Associate Director for Research and Improvement, and Academy of Research and Improvement lead, said: “We are really proud to have played a part in this significant study which is forging new territory in scientific research. Although the study is ongoing, its overall findings will vitally help in understanding future re-infection of COVID-19 and developing ways in which that can be minimised where at all possible.”

Dan Baylis, Chief Medical Officer at Solent NHS Trust, said: “Our Academy of Research and Improvement has a strong and enviable track record in its innovative and pioneering work to improve the health and wellbeing of all. Our contribution to the SIREN study, along with other NHS and public health partners, is a fantastic example of working together to determine how this virus behaves so we can all respond effectively to save as many lives as possible from this awful disease. We urge everyone to continue following the government guidelines, especially Hands, Face, Space.”

Professor Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor at Public Health England and the SIREN study lead said: “This study has given us the clearest picture to date of the nature of antibody protection against COVID-19 but it is critical people do not misunderstand these early findings.

“We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.

“This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others. Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives.

“We are immensely grateful to our colleagues in the NHS for giving up their time to volunteer, and whose continued participation at a time of great stress is making this research possible.”

SIREN will continue to follow participants for 12 months, including more Solent employees, to explore how long any immunity may last, the effectiveness of vaccines and to what extent people with immunity are able to carry and transmit the virus.

Read Public Health England’s press release on the study.

Discover more about Solent NHS Trust’s Academy of Research and Improvement

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