Covid immunity study Siren is underway at Preston and Chorley hospitals

A study into coronavirus immunity is underway at Preston and Chorley hospitals.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 13th July 2020, 2:05 pm

Around 250 medics will be regularly screened for antibodies for an initial 12 months to see if the presence of the special protein molecules protects them against the virus or not.

The local effort in a national study, which will see 100,000 UK healthcare workers recruited, is being led by Dr Rob Shorten, a consultant clinical scientist in microbiology.

He said: “It’s very important. This has been highlighted as urgent so it has been given the full backing of Government.

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Dr Rob Shorten is leading the hospitals efforts to test Covid-19 immunity

"This is a new virus discovered just over six months ago and it’s not known if people who are infected ... can be re-infected.”

Around 80 per cent of people who test positive for Covid-19 are symptom-free, Dr Jim Gardner, the medical director at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said during a weekly coronavirus briefing, which means many will be unaware they have the disease unless they are routinely tested.

But boffins still aren’t sure whether catching the virus – and recovering from it – results in immunity or, if it does, how long it lasts.

Siren, launched by Public Health England, will see NHS trusts using tests to “monitor a cohort of healthcare workers fortnightly for up to 18 months”, according to NHS documents.

It will test immunity in both “the short and medium term”.

While a new study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, claims immunity may only last a few months – see below right – Dr Shorten said Siren may yield more reliable results because it’s a bigger project and it’s a “numbers game”.

He added: “We are pleased to be involved and pleased to get up and running so quickly.”

Patients and researchers at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, the NHS trust running both hospitals, also took part in the trial that led to the first known specific Covid treatment.

It put the county at the heart of a breakthrough with global significance – with a cheap steroid now being given to seriously ill coronavirus patients to save their lives.

It cuts the risk of death by a third for those on ventilators, and a fifth for those on oxygen.