Ulster University launches new study exploring COVID-19 exposure and immunity in NI

18 June 2020

Ulster University launches new study exploring COVID-19 exposure and immunity in NI
Ulster University launches new study exploring COVID-19 exposure and immunity in NI

Have you tested positive or think you've had COVID-19? Ulster University wants to hear from you as part of a new study exploring exposure and immunity in NI.

Led by Professors Tara Moore and Jim McLaughlin, the novel PANDEMIC (Protective/risk factors, ANtibody response, Dna, gEnoMICs) study aims to determine the extent of exposure and the immune response to the coronavirus in the general population of Northern Ireland. The study will also investigate the genetic risk factors for COVID-19 symptoms.

Using Ulster University’s COVID-19 app and the UK Government Rapid Test Consortium’s highly sensitive lateral flow test, the project team hopes to recruit 3000 participants to get a better understanding of the number of people in NI who have been exposed to the virus and whether different age groups or ethnicities make antibodies.

The results from the study will help inform public policy and recovery strategy and also give individuals peace of mind to return to work as the lockdown eases.

Participants who are antibody positive will be assessed over time for up to one year to see how long their antibodies are present.

Professor Jim McLaughlin commented:

“This important study will give us a good indication of the number of people exposed to COVID-19 in Northern Ireland and the immune response in the general population.  

“All tests will be conducted using the UK Government Rapid Test Consortium’s new highly sensitive antibody test. Our study will help to validate the test and test user experience before the government deploys these home tests to inform recovery plans and better handle future outbreaks or even monitor the success of a vaccine when it is eventually developed.”

Professor Tara Moore said:

“Everyone is eager to know if they have had COVID-19. Many people with symptoms were advised to stay at home and self-isolate without being tested so we just don’t know how many people in Northern Ireland have been affected. This novel study is a great opportunity to find out if you have COVID-19 antibodies and help us learn more about COVID-19 exposure and immunity in Northern Ireland.

“It’s a very simple pin prick test and participants receive their results within 15 minutes. Those who test positive will be invited for a blood test. These blood samples will allow us to store DNA and perform genetic analysis to look for factors that influence how severe a COVID-19 infection could be as and when these genetic factors are discovered.”

The Ulster University PANDEMIC study is partly funded by Kingsbridge Private Hospital.

How to take part

Researchers from the Schools of Biomedical Science and Engineering are looking for volunteers between the ages of 18 and 90, whether they think they have had COVID-19 or not, to survey the presence of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the blood of the people of Northern Ireland.

Eligible participants will be asked to:

  • Download the Ulster University COVID-19 smartphone app
  • Answer questions on their age, health and any COVID-19 symptoms they have, or have had
  • Attend a one-off short drive-through appointment in the University to take a finger-prick blood test
  • If participants test positive for the COVID-19 antibody they will be invited to give a blood sample

If you are interested in participating in the study please email pandemicstudy@ulster.ac.uk


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