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Queen's spearheads trial to test children for virus antibodies

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Studies: Professor Ian Young

Studies: Professor Ian Young

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Studies: Professor Ian Young

Queen's University is leading a UK-wide trial to measure coronavirus antibodies in healthy children.

Over 1,000 children from Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales will have their antibodies measured.

The aim of the study is to assess the numbers of children who may have had Covid-19, and if they have antibodies that may be able to fight off the infection.

The university says the findings will be important for estimating the proportion of children exposed to the virus and who have antibodies that may be consistent with immunity.

This data can then be considered as part of planning measures, such as reopening schools and restarting routine paediatric services such as health visiting and paediatric clinics.

The study is led by Dr Tom Waterfield, researcher at Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen's University Belfast, in partnership with Belfast Health Trust and Public Health England (PHE). He said: "It is unclear what proportion of UK children have been exposed to Covid-19 and how many, if any, have the necessary antibodies to prevent future re-infection. This important research may help with planning for the reopening of schools and other vital children's services." Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of HSC Research and Development, commented: "Research studies are vital at this time so that patients can access the best possible treatments which can help tackle the spread of Covid-19.

"The results of this study will provide insights into the exposure of children in the UK to the SARS-CoV-2 virus over an important period of time."

Health Minister Robin Swann, added: "I very much welcome the fact that Queen's University is leading this hugely important UK-wide trial. Expert research has a central role in the world's battle against Covid-19. Our understanding of this virus has already been greatly enhanced at pace but there is still much more to learn."

Dr Shamez Ladhani, PHE epidemiologist, said: "This study will play an important part in monitoring SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the community as we move out of lockdown ... adding to vital data on antibody and virus prevalence already being collected through PHE's national surveillance programme."

Belfast Telegraph