5,000 people invited to participate in study investigating Covid-19

By Mary Dennehy

THE HSE is issuing letters to more than 5,000 people and inviting them to participate in a study investigating Covid-19 infection in Ireland.

The Study to Investigate Covid-19 Infection in People Living in Ireland (SCOPI) will measure exposure to Covid-19 infection in the population using an antibody blood test.

 

The letters are being sent to people in Dublin and Sligo.

Dublin and Sligo have been selected as sample locations as they represent areas of the country with higher and lower known levels of the infection respectively.

According to the HSE, through using a representative sample of participants in both locations, it will be possible to provide an overall estimate of infection in the Irish population.

It is hoped to repeat the antibody research in other areas of the country over the coming year.

Those who consent to take part will be asked to complete a short questionnaire by phone, followed by a blood sample.

The sample will be taken by a phlebotomist in a local centre arranged by the HSE.

Participants will be provided with their individual results and those who are found to have antibodies for Covid-19 will be asked to take part in a follow-up study – which will involve further blood tests over a 12-month period.

Dr Lorraine Doherty, HSE National Clinical Director for Health Protection said: “Seroprevalence studies are really important to help us understand the true level of infection in the population.

“When the results are available, we will have valuable information on the level of infection by age group and also the extent of asymptomatic infection, informing our national public health responses to Covid-19.”

The HSE said in a statement released that antibodies to Covid-19 are produced over several weeks after infection with the virus.

The presence of antibodies indicates that a person was infected with Covid-19, irrespective of whether the individual had severe or mild disease, or even asymptomatic infection.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said: “The antibody test we are using has recently been shown in international studies to be both sensitive, in that it detects the majority of people with antibodies, and specific in that a positive test is an accurate reflection of infection.

“The main benefit of this testing is at the population level; individuals will be advised not to use their result as a basis for clinical decisions about diagnosis or management.”

The HSE has stressed that the study is not open to volunteers from the general public, with a random selection of the population chosen.

Encouraging those who receive letters to consider participating, the HSE said: “This is an important study and those who participate are contributing to essential research that is of benefit to society, and helping with the national pandemic response.”

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