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New call for research on the risk factors, transmission and prevalence of coronavirus

 

The NIHR and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have launched a new call for research proposals on the risk factors, transmission and prevalence of the COVID-19 virus SARS-CoV-2.

The research funded will help inform policy decisions during the pandemic, including possible decisions about infection prevention strategies and relaxation of existing containment measures.

New cases of COVID-19 continue to occur in a variety of settings despite the containment measures. The first of the two highlight notices calls for research on routes of transmission of coronavirus infection. 

Research proposals are sought on risk factors for transmission, which groups are most likely to become infected and in what environments transmissions occur.

The second highlight notice calls for research to understand risk factors, transmission and prevalence of the virus in groups at high risk of infection, in particular health and social care workers and residents in nursing and residential care homes.

There is emerging evidence of a potentially higher risk of coronavirus infection in healthcare workers in different roles, and among staff and residents of nursing and residential homes. 

Understanding the levels of infection (including asymptomatic) in these groups, relative to the general population, and the factors that are driving this will be critical for reducing transmission, morbidity and mortality. 

To date NIHR and UKRI have already funded a study to assess healthcare workers’ risk acquiring coronavirus infection, to better inform health and safety measures to protect staff and patients. The Evaluation to Inform Response Study (SAFER) study will test 200 healthcare workers at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for SARS-CoV-2 repeatedly over time.

The second highlight notice is also calling for research into the role that children play in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

The role of children in propagating coronavirus infection (including via asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic disease) remains unclear. For example, transmission may occur during drop-off and pick up from school by parents and carers, or within educational institutions.

More evidence on the role(s) of children in transmission of infection is needed to inform policy decisions around exiting the lockdown measures.

The NIHR-UKRI funded What’s the STORY (Serum Testing of Representative Youngsters) study has already begun to assess rates of coronavirus infection and immunity in children and teenagers across the UK, by collecting blood samples from children and teenagers aged 0-19 years with the infection and measuring levels of antibodies.

These two highlight notices form part of a rolling call for research proposals on COVID-19, run by NIHR and UKRI. To date the two organisations have jointly invested £25 million into 27 research projects to respond to the pandemic, including research on treatments, vaccines and the spread of the virus.

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