Project receives funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to assess novel coronavirus infection rates in children and teenagers across the UK. | University of Oxford

Project receives funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to assess novel coronavirus infection rates in children and teenagers across the UK.

20 April 2020

A multi-site project, called ‘What’s the STORY?’ has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to assess novel coronavirus infection rates in children and teenagers across the UK. Given the importance of this study to the national Covid-19 response it has been deemed a priority study for the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Urgent Public Health Response.

The team, led by Professor Matthew Snape from the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, aims to determine how many children and teenagers have been infected with Covid-19, and what proportion of those have had symptoms. The research will also determine how many children and teenagers have not yet been infected and may remain susceptible to Covid-19 when lockdown measures are relaxed.

‘What’s the STORY?’ was set up in 2019 as a pilot study to evaluate the UK immunisation programme, but it has now been adapted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This new funding allows the project to expand to include new study sites and recruit an additional 1200 children and teenagers (aged 0-19 years) from across England. The team will also test samples already collected and these data, along with medical histories of Covid-19 symptoms, will provide valuable information into the levels of virus circulating in this segment of the population.

Understanding the prevalence of Covid-19 in the community is vital to supporting public health in response to the pandemic, including in children and teenagers, who are mostly spared the worst of the disease but could be spreading the disease to others.

‘What’s the STORY?’ is an ongoing research study led by Oxford Vaccine Group in collaboration with Public Health England (PHE) and a network of clinical sites in Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and St George’s, London.

A key aspect of this project is the need to assess a representative cohort of children and young people, in order to give an accurate “snapshot” of the wider population. The study team are keen to engage a range of individuals and must ensure that the group tested is not biased towards people who think they may have been infected with Covid-19, and for this reason, the study team will not provide test results to participants.

Existing sites are primarily recruiting through mail out by invitation letters to selected postcodes, and eligible individuals from the catchment areas of each study site have been or will soon be contacted with information about the project. However broader recruitment to new sites is expected to open within the next few weeks, and updates will be available on the study website: whatsthestory.web.ox.ac.uk.

Professor Matthew Snape, Chief Investigator on the study, said:
“To understand the current coronavirus pandemic, we need to work out how many people are becoming infected without showing any symptoms. With this study we will systematically study the proportion of children and teenagers with immunity against this virus during the course of the pandemic. This information is vital to informing public policy about how to best manage this devastating outbreak.”

For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact the University of Oxford press office at news.office@admin.ox.ac.uk or on +44 (0)1865 280528.

Notes to editors

If you are interested in learning more about the study and the catchment areas, please visit our website: https://whatsthestory.web.ox.ac.uk.

Acknowledgements and funding
This study would not be possible without the support of our collaborators:
Dr Eva Galiza, St Georges Hospital NHS Foundation trust; Professor Saul Faust, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation trust; Dr Stephen Hughes, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital; Dr Marion Roderick, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust; Dr Fiona Shackley, Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Trust; Dr Sam Oddie, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Dr Tim Lee, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust; and from
Public Health England (PHE): Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal; Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam; Professor Nick Andrews; Professor Ray Borrow; Dr Mary Ramsay.

This work receives funding from the rapid research response funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and by the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

About the Oxford Vaccine Group
The Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) conducts studies of new and improved vaccines for children and adults and is based in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Oxford. The group is led by Professor Andrew J Pollard.

The team includes post-doctoral scientists, research assistants and DPhil students and we work together with professionals from a range of specialities such as immunologists, microbiologists, epidemiologists, health communicators, and a sociologist, a community paediatrician, the local Health Protection team and a bioethicist.

OVG is a UKCRC registered clinical trials unit working in collaboration with the Primary Care Trials Unit at the University (registration number: 52). For more information see: http://www.ukcrc-ctu.org.uk/

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