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COVID-19 study in Birmingham schools

The BCHC research team is visiting schools across Birmingham to test staff and pupils for COVID-19 as part of a national study to help build a better understanding of the virus.

The Public Health England surveillance project will assess and monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers who have volunteered to be swab-tested.

Analysis of samples taken will be used to better understand the rates of transmission in pre-school, primary and secondary schools.

Schools across Birmingham are supporting COVID-19 research.

The study will add to data on antibody and virus prevalence already being collected through national surveillance programmes and other nationwide studies.

The initial phase will collect data from up to 100 schools across England, with the results available over the summer. Data will be fed back to inform a potential second phase study in September. Children who are currently attending primary and secondary school during the lockdown and staff are being invited to participate.

The research and innovation team and local Clinical Research Network nurses are collecting weekly nasal swabs from staff and pupils at 18 Birmingham schools until the end of the summer term. 

BCHC research and innovation director Dr Christine Burt said: “Repeated surveillance of school pupils and staff over a four-week period will create a baseline which may contribute towards further understanding of COVID-19 and its communal spread.

BCHC is pleased to be able to contribute to this work as it will give more confidence to the local authority, schools and parents before schools re-open in September.”

The project is led locally by children and families division research lead Dr Joanna Garstang, who is also a clinical trials scholar, sponsored by the Clinical Research Network.

She said: “Many schools in Birmingham really wanted to take part in this study, to help reassure staff and families.

“With our fantastic BCHC research team and support from the Clinical Research Network we have been able to offer the study to over 30 local schools.”

Dr Shamez Ladhani, Paediatric Infectious Diseases Consultant at Public Health England, said: “We are delighted this study is up and running in schools across England. By working with students and staff we’ll be able to better understand infection and transmission of asymptomatic and mild infections of COVID-19 that may have otherwise remained undetected.”

This new sector-specific study builds on the data being gathered at a national level through swab and antibody tests conducted as part of an Office for National Statistics (ONS) COVID-19 Infection Survey which has tested over 35,000 households to date, and an Ipsos MORI study of 100,000 people looking at rates of antibodies across England. To date these studies have administered over 200,000 tests since the end of April.

Please email the team at research.innovation@bhamcommunity.nhs.uk for more information.

Click here for national press release.