Background: Most biomedical research has focused on sampling COVID-19 patients presenting to hospital with advanced disease, with less focus on the asymptomatic or paucisymptomatic. We established a bioresource with serial sampling of health care workers (HCWs) designed to obtain samples before and during mainly mild disease, with follow-up sampling to evaluate the quality and duration of immune memory.
Methods: We conducted a prospective study on HCWs from three hospital sites in London, initially at a single centre (recruited just prior to first peak community transmission in London), but then extended to multiple sites 3 weeks later (recruitment still ongoing, target n=1,000). Asymptomatic participants attending work complete a health questionnaire, and provide a nasal swab (for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by RT-PCR tests) and blood samples (mononuclear cells, serum, plasma, RNA and DNA are biobanked) at 16 weekly study visits, and at 6 and 12 months.
Results: Preliminary baseline results for the first 731 HCWs (400 single-centre, 331 multicentre extension) are presented. Mean age was 38±11 years; 67% are female, 31% nurses, 20% doctors, and 19% work in intensive care units. COVID-19-associated risk factors were: 37% black, Asian or minority ethnicities; 18% smokers; 13% obesity; 11% asthma; 7% hypertension and 2% diabetes mellitus. At baseline, 41% reported symptoms in the preceding 2 weeks. Preliminary test results from the initial cohort (n=400) are available: PCR at baseline for SARS-CoV-2 was positive in 28 of 396 (7.1%, 95% CI 4.9-10.0%) and 15 of 385 (3.9%, 2.4-6.3%) had circulating IgG antibodies.
Conclusions: This COVID-19 bioresource established just before the peak of infections in the UK will provide longitudinal assessments of incident infection and immune responses in HCWs through the natural time course of disease and convalescence. The samples and data from this bioresource are available to academic collaborators by application https://covid-consortium.com/application-for-samples/.
- Healthcare workers