The University of Derby has joined a national programme to improve understanding of how many people are currently infected with the COVID-19 virus – and how self-testing for the condition could be carried out in future.
The University is supporting the second part of the programme, called REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-2), led by Imperial College London.
The University has hosted a temporary primary care hub, in conjunction with NHS Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), at its Kedleston Road site since early April.
The REACT-2 study will look at the ability of key workers to self-test, by carrying out a finger prick blood test at the hub for antibodies to the COVID-19 virus. A nasal swab and saliva will also be taken.
All samples will be analysed for comparison with gold-standard laboratory testing on participants’ blood samples, to assess the accuracy of the tests.
Dr Paula Holt, Pro-Vice Chancellor Dean of the College of Health and Social Care, said: “The primary care hub is already a vital resource within our community, thanks to our successful partnership with Derby and Derbyshire CCG, and could also prove a benefit for the whole country.
“The results of this new study, in collaboration with those carried out on other University sites, will have great significance for how the population as a whole can be tested, and particularly self-test for evidence of the virus, so that we are better informed to monitor and manage population spread.”
Antibody testing is used to assess how far the infection has spread and what proportion of the population has been infected. This study will assess how easy these tests are to use, improve the testing process and compare the results of the self-antibody tests to other more established ways of testing for antibodies. The data will help guide the government’s planning on which test should be used.
If antibody self-testing is found to be accurate and usable by the public, it will be rolled out in the final stage to 100,000 people later this year to provide an indication of the prevalence of COVID-19 in England.
Professor Kathryn Mitchell DL, Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby, said: “From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, our staff and students have used the expertise and resources we have at Derby to help combat the spread of the virus and to support frontline workers in our hospitals.
“I am delighted that we can also contribute to this hugely important work to test for COVID-19 infection within the community through this study, which could set the direction for how the virus is effectively monitored throughout the UK.”
For more information on what else the University of Derby has been doing to tackle COVID-19 within the community visit their website.