UK Biobank has taken swift strides to help tackle the global pandemic by undertaking three major initiatives.
Coronavirus antibody study
UK Biobank has established a major study to measure coronavirus antibody levels to understand the extent of past infection of the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 in different population subgroups across the UK by inviting UK Biobank participants and their adult children to take a blood sample every month for at least six months.
"Thank you to the participants and their family members who volunteered for the study to test antibodies. We were over-whelmed by the response and sorry that we could not include everybody – but your support at this time of crisis is very much appreciated.”
Professor Sir Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator.
By measuring antibodies for the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 it will reveal the proportion of the population that has been infected.
20,000 UK Biobank participants, their children and grandchildren (aged over 18) living in separate households, have been selected to take part.
We are collecting and analysing blood samples and information from those participating. 97% of samples were returned in month one, and this continues to be high.
The detailed analysis of results on 20,000 samples from study participants in the UK Biobank COVID-19 antibody study over six months will provide the global research community with vital data on previous rates of infection in the population.
The 20,000 volunteers, a combination of existing UK Biobank participants and their children and grandchildren aged over 18, have helped to produce results that are representative of the UK population. Summary information on the results and full reports from month one and two can be found below.
Results from month one provided a snapshot for May and June of past SARS-CoV-2 infection, revealing that overall in the study, 7.1% of the participants had been infected previously and these rates did not differ in men and women. However the rates were higher in younger people, ranging from 10.8% in those under 30 to 5.5% in those over 70.
Previous infection was most common among participants who live in London (10.4%), and participants living in areas with higher levels of socio-economic deprivation had a higher rate (8.9%) of previous infection than those who live in more affluent areas of the country.
Independent trends were seen in rates of previous infection, such as a higher rate of previous infection among participants of Black (11.3%) and South Asian (9.0%) ethnicity than among those of White ethnicity (6.9%). However, the differences between ethnic groups were not explained fully by where people lived or by their age. Results from subsequent months may provide further insight into these trends.
These initial findings are hugely valuable for assessing the current extent of previous infection.
However, if you are one of the volunteers the results from the blood samples that you send us every month until the end of the year will be of even greater importance for monitoring the changes of previous infection over time assisting in managing the pandemic.
Thank you to everyone taking part.
Health data available to tackle COVID-19
Crucial data on the health of 500,000 UK Biobank participants are being made available on a regular basis to registered researchers worldwide to undertake vital research into the genetic and lifestyle determinants of COVID-19 and its long-term health consequences.
Data from the following health records are available:
- COVID-19 diagnostic test data
- Hospital inpatient data
- Death data
- GP primary care data
We also plan to make critical care data available as soon as we can.
COVID-19 repeat imaging study
The UK Biobank COVID-19 repeat imaging study aims to scan more than 3,000 people over the next 6 to 9 months. Thanks to your help, we collected imaging scans from about 50,000 participants before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Collecting a second set of imaging scans from some people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and from others who have not been infected will generate a unique resource to enable scientists to understand how the virus affects internal organs.