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Coronavirus research: FAQs

What is UK Biobank?


UK Biobank is a large, publicly-funded resource that is helping scientists from around the world perform health-related research to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases (such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and joint problems). By studying people’s responses to questions, physical measurements and samples collected from all 500,000 people in the study, scientists can work out why some people develop particular diseases, and others do not. UK Biobank is largely funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, although it has also received additional funding from Government bodies (the Department of Health, Scottish Government, and the Welsh Assembly Government) and charities (Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK).

Taking part

No, your participation in this study is entirely voluntary.

You do not need to do anything. We will not contact you again about this study.

The purpose of this study is to determine the extent of previous infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in different regions across the UK. It is therefore important for us to include a range of people in the study, regardless of whether they have had symptoms of COVID-19.

Yes. It is important to include samples from individuals before, during and after infection.  If you are concerned about sending a potentially infectious blood sample through the post, our staff are trained to the highest standards to ensure they handle your sample with care.

Yes. We want to include people who represent a broad cross-section of the UK population, regardless of what other conditions you may have.  Your samples are treated with utmost care to protect staff who are handling them, so you can still take part if you have an infection.

Yes. We want to include as many UK Biobank participants as possible. The test is not suitable for use by anyone who has an untreated blood coagulation disorder. However, if you are taking anti-coagulant medication, the amount of blood that needs to be collected is very small (a 2-3mm sized spot) and provides no additional risk than any other finger-prick test so it should not affect you unduly

Participants in UK Biobank are generally aged over 50. In order to find out the extent of the coronavirus and its impact on health in all age groups, we would also like to invite adult (over 18 years old) children and grandchildren (if applicable) of UK Biobank participants to get involved, if they would like to. Whilst we are happy for more than one person in a household to register their interest in the research, no more than one person will be selected to participate. This is because of the high chance of co-infection within households.

Yes. Any children or grandchildren aged 18 or over can register an interest to take part in the study. They do not need to be blood relatives. Whilst we are happy for more than one person in a household to register their interest in the research, no more than one person will be selected to participate. This is because of the high chance of co-infection within households.

Yes, you can still take part if you do not have or wish to involve other family members.

Unfortunately not. The study is only open to UK Biobank participants and their children and grandchildren aged 18 or over.

No. As the aim of this study is to determine the extent of previous infection with the coronavirus across the UK, we only need people who live in the UK to participate.

Most email clients (programs) or websites have a button or drop-down menu in the same place or near to where you would usually go to reply to an email. We cannot provide guidance for every email provider here so if you still have problems, we suggest that you go to https://www.google.co.uk and search how to forward an email in your email provider e.g. Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo/BTInternet/TalkTalk.

Due to data protection laws, we are unable to directly email your relatives. Consequently, please do NOT send us your relatives’ personal details. Please read the guidance on how to forward any email provided above. If you still have problems, please telephone our Participant Resource Centre free of charge on 0800 0 276 276 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm), or email us at ukbiobank@ukbiobank.ac.uk

The study is only open to UK Biobank participants and their children and grandchildren aged 18 or over. If your spouse/partner is a participant in UK Biobank and has not yet received an invite to participate, they can register their interest by logging into the UK Biobank Participant website. Contact details can be checked and updated by clicking on the “Contact Details” button on the Participant Homepage. To consent to provide us with blood samples for this research, please click on the “Coronavirus Research” button on the Participant Homepage.

If your spouse/partner is a participant in UK Biobank and has not yet received an invite to participate, they can register their interest by logging into the UK Biobank Participant website. Contact details can be checked and updated by clicking on the “Contact Details” button on the Participant Homepage. To consent to provide us with blood samples for this research, please click on the “Coronavirus Research” button on the Participant Homepage. Whilst we are happy for more than one person in a household to register their interest in the research, no more than one person will be selected to participate. This is because of the high chance of co-infection within households.

So that we can assess the extent of infection with the coronavirus and its impact on health in all age groups, participants are carefully selected to take part based on postcode, age and sex. As a result, it is possible for one of your relatives to be selected to take part while you are not.

Yes.

Yes.

If you are a UK Biobank participant, register your interest by logging into the UK Biobank participant website. Contact details can be checked and updated by clicking on the “Contact Details” button on the Participant Homepage. To consent to provide us with blood samples for this research, please click on the “Coronavirus Research” button on the Participant Homepage.

If you are a relative of a UK Biobank participant, please ask the relative who sent your original invite to resend it to you.

Your blood sample will be tested for antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus). Antibodies are produced by our immune system in response to infections and can tell us whether you have ever been infected with the virus.

If you are a relative of a UK Biobank participant, we will also extract DNA from your blood sample to do genetic testing, so that researchers can determine whether genetic factors are important in identifying who goes on to develop severe COVID-19 disease and who does not.

No. The antibodies will be assayed using a validated, robust, high-throughput test recently developed by a laboratory at Oxford University. We will also be storing plasma from participants in case there are other antibodies that scientists wish to study in the future. We are not using the home, finger prick (point-of-care) COVID-19 antibody testing kits described recently in the press which have problems of sensitivity and specificity.

No. UK Biobank’s consent explicitly states that participants will not receive feedback of results (e.g. diagnostic or other health-related information) that are not already known. Samples will not be analysed immediately and are being collected for research purposes only. As such, participation in this study should not be considered a health check.  If you are worried about having COVID-19, you should follow the current government/NHS guidance about obtaining a diagnostic test or call 111.

The results of analyses completed on blood samples and related information will be kept by UK Biobank for many years. They will be provided in a de-identified form (such that no participant can be identified from their data or samples) to approved researchers for medical and other health-related research (including scientists working in other countries and in commercial companies).

We keep any information that might identify you (such as your name and address) separately from other information about you in our database.

If you are a relative of a UK Biobank participant and are not selected to take part, UK Biobank will delete all information provided by you during the consent process as soon after its storage is no longer necessary.

There will be no monetary benefit or direct feedback of any results to you as a result of taking part in this study, but your participation will help in the fight against COVID-19.

If you have registered correctly, you should receive an acknowledgement email within one working day. Please check your junk/spam folder as well as your inbox. If you have not received an acknowledgement within this time, please go to https://biobank.ndph.ox.ac.uk/covid19/checkmystatus/ and enter your details to see whether you have been registered successfully.

If you are not able to leave the house, we would appreciate it if a member of your household, neighbour or friend is able to post your sample for you.

In order to determine the extent of infection with coronavirus (and immunity) over time, it is very important that participants are able to commit to providing multiple samples over the next six months. Whilst we know that circumstances may mean that you are unable to provide a blood sample when asked to, if you know now that you will not be able to provide every sample (for example, because you are going away), please do not sign up to participate.

If you no longer wish to provide a monthly blood sample over the next few months, please let us know by clicking on the link in the email sent to you before you receive each kit.

Delivery of samples

We will send you an email a few days before each blood sampling kit is due to arrive.

Royal Mail will deliver your blood sampling kit and in order for them to do so we will provide your name and address to Royal Mail (for further information about how Royal Mail handle personal data please see their privacy notice https://www.royalmail.com/privacy-notice).

Please log into the UK Biobank participant website to update your details.

The kit needs to be delivered to a secure letter/parcelbox where possible. Unfortunately, we are unable to take specific delivery instructions.

Yes.

We will send you an email a few days before each blood sampling kit is due to arrive. If you have not received your kit within 10 days of your email notification, you can request a replacement kit by visiting https://biobank.ndph.ox.ac.uk/covid19/kitproblem/

Unfortunately not. If you are unable to provide your sample on the specified day, please take the sample at your earliest convenience and post it back to us on the same day. Please ensure that you do this on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to ensure that the sample arrives at the laboratory when it is operational.

Yes, please take and post your sample to us at your earliest convenience. Please ensure that you do this on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to ensure that the sample arrives at the laboratory when it is operational.

Taking blood samples

We will ask you to collect approximately 10 drops (around 0.5ml or one tenth of a teaspoon) of blood into a small tube. All of the instructions will be provided in the kit.

Yes, please click here to view a video showing the collection process and the supporting documentation.

Yes. You can request a replacement kit by visiting https://biobank.ndph.ox.ac.uk/covid19/kitproblem/ Do not collect your sample until you have all the contents of the kit.

Please return all used lancets to UK Biobank in the protective packaging provided. Any unused lancets can be kept as spares for use in future months or returned to UK Biobank in your sample packaging.  

Please send us the sample that contains the largest volume. The barcodes on your questionnaire, sample tube and envelope link your results to you. When you return your sample to UK Biobank it is therefore important that you complete the questionnaire and use the packaging that was sent to you with the sample tube you used.

We will send you an email and/or SMS when we would like you to take your sample. If possible, please take your blood sample and mail it back on the specified day. If your kit has not yet arrived, or this day is inconvenient, please take the sample as soon as you can. However, we ask that you only do this on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to ensure that the sample arrives at the laboratory when it is operational.

The amount of blood that needs to be collected is minimal (i.e. no more than 0.5 ml). It is not necessary to wear gloves to collect the sample. Gauze, a wipe and plaster are provided in the kit to clean your finger afterwards.

The amount of blood that needs to be collected is minimal (no more than 0.5ml) so it shouldn’t affect you unduly if you are taking anticoagulants.

Yes. If your first attempt doesn’t fill the tube to the level requested, try using the second lancet on another finger. If you are unable to fill the tube to the required level after two attempts, please still send us the sample that you have been able to collect.

No. The sample collection must be completed in a single sitting to maintain the quality of the sample collected. Please still send us the sample that you have been able to collect.

No. Only participants that have consented to take part in the research can provide blood samples. The sample kit is linked to other information that you have already provided to UK Biobank.

If you forgot to take your sample, please take it as soon as you can and return it to us on the same day. However, we ask that you only do this on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. If you cannot go outdoors to the postbox, please ask a member of your household, a neighbour or a friend to post it for you, if possible. If you’ve had an email from us saying that your next sample kit is arriving in a few days’ time, then please skip your last sample and just provide and post us the next sample.

We do not recommend collecting blood from any other part of your body as the instructions are written to optimise blood collection from your finger. Guidance to improve blood flow will be provided in the instruction leaflet. Please read the guidance carefully to maximise the chance of collecting the full volume needed. Two devices to collect blood will be supplied in case the first attempt fails or yields an insufficient sample.

You can take the sample at any time of the day but please ensure you are able to post the sample on the day you collect it. Please try to take your sample and mail it back to us on the day we ask you to. Please ensure that you do this on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to ensure that the sample arrives at the laboratory when it is operational.

No.

If this is the first time you have collected a sample, collection should take no longer than 30 minutes from start to finish (including reading the instructions and packaging the sample for return to UK Biobank). Subsequent attempts may take half this time.

The kit is designed for you to collect yourself. If you need help from someone, please ask them to read the instructions before assisting you.

Used lancets should be returned with your sample. Any unused lancets can be kept as spares for use in future months or returned to UK Biobank in your sample packaging.  Instructions about how to safely package your lancet are provided in the Instruction leaflet.

Returning the sample

A freepost envelope will be included in your blood sampling kit. Please follow the instructions contained in your kit which explains how you should package and return the kit to us. Please ensure that you adhere to government restrictions relating to social distancing that might be in place when mailing samples. To help ensure that samples are returned to us as soon as possible, please try to post your sample in a postbox that is outside a post office. If this is too difficult or inconvenient, please use your nearest postbox.

You may keep unused lancets as spares for use in future months if you wish. Once they are no longer needed please return them to UK Biobank in your sample packaging.

 

You can request a replacement kit by visiting https://biobank.ndph.ox.ac.uk/covid19/kitproblem/ When you receive it, please take your sample and post it that day, if possible.

You can request a replacement kit by visiting https://biobank.ndph.ox.ac.uk/covid19/kitproblem/ When you receive it, please take your sample and post it that day, if possible.

If possible, please arrange for another member of your household, a friend or a neighbour to post your sample back to us. Unfortunately, due to the need to mail the sample on the same day that it is taken, we are unable to arrange collection of your package.

Yes. Please return your sample and questionnaire as soon as possible. If you did not record the time and date of collection when the sample was collected, please record an approximate time and date when you collected the sample.

If possible, please scan or take a photo of your questionnaire and email it to us at ukbiobank@ukbiobank.ac.uk. If this is not possible, we would be grateful if you could send it by post to UK Biobank, 1-2 Spectrum Way, Adswood, Stockport, SK3 0SA.

No, unfortunately we are not able to acknowledge receipt of the samples mailed to us but please be reassured that the mailing process we are using is routinely used for remote blood sample collection.

Use of my sample

Your blood sample will be tested for antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. If you are a relative of a UK Biobank participant, we may also extract DNA from your blood sample to do genetic testing, so that researchers can determine whether genetic factors are important in identifying who goes on to develop severe COVID-19 disease and who does not.

The results of analyses conducted on your sample, and data you provide, will be used for approved health-related research that is in the public interest, in accordance with your consent.

Your blood samples will be stored on a long-term basis until relevant analyses can be completed. The results will be made available for approved health-related research.

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