Around 10,000 people who work or reside in care homes will be given repeat testing for COVID-19 as part of a new government cohort study.
The study aims to provide greater insight into the spread of coronavirus in these settings, enabling staff to react quickly to outbreaks. The research will take place in 106 care homes across England and will be carried out by a team led by University College London in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Data Foundry.
Consenting staff and residents will be given swab tests (polymerase chain reaction), to test whether residents are currently infected, as well as antibody tests, which indicate past infection. This will involve undergoing three rounds of blood tests and three rounds of swab testing over a period of three to four months. The subset of residents who have an antibody response at three months will then have repeat blood tests at six and 12 months to see how long the antibodies are present in the blood.
The findings will not only enable researchers to track how many people have the virus - and who - but to also understand past exposure and possible immunity among study participants, as well as how infection spreads in care homes. The study will draw on results from whole care home testing as well as data and findings from pre-existing studies to help build a more comprehensive picture of how outbreaks play out over time within the same home.
Chief investigator Dr Laura Shallcross said: “We will also collect detailed information from care homes to try and understand why some have had outbreaks and others have not. Taken together, this information will be used to inform the pandemic response in care homes and protect residents and staff from becoming infected with COVID-19 in the future.”