Those who agree to take part will provide monthly blood samples for at
least six months so that their levels of immunity (antibodies in their
blood) can be measured. Researchers will use the information to
determine the extent of the infection in different regions across the
UK and to understand how long antibody levels persist following
This major study will complement existing studies, such as the ONS
Covid-19 Infection Survey, which through nasal swabs is testing for
presence of the virus and will collect blood samples from 1,000 adults
in English households. By collecting blood samples from 20,000
participants across the UK to understand immunity to Covid-19, UK
Biobank will contribute to national efforts to ease lock-down
Participants will be a representative sample of the UK population.
500,000 people joined UK Biobank between 2006-2010 when they were aged
between 40-69 years. By opening the study up to their children and
grandchildren aged over 18, UK Biobank hopes to recruit people across
all regions, ages and socio-economic deprivation.
Participants taking part in the study are receiving monthly collection
kits, and are asked to provide 0.5ml sample of blood from their
fingertip. The samples are returned in protective envelopes to UK
Biobank and undergo validated antibody analysis performed by the
Target Discovery Institute based at the University of Oxford.
UK Biobank Principal Investigator, Sir Rory Collins, BHF Professor of
Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford University, said: “We believe most
people have mild or no symptoms of infection with coronavirus, but a
small proportion fall very ill. This study will help determine the
proportion of people who have been infected and, crucially, how long
they are immune from further infection
“Much better understanding of how long antibodies to coronavirus stay
in the blood, and how quickly immunity wears off, are vital to finding
a way out of this pandemic.”
UK Biobank participants are already contributing to research into
COVID-19, with data on participants tested for coronavirus now being
made available with support from Public Health England.
“This is the first time we have asked the children of UK Biobank
participants to come out and help us. We have always focussed on
improving the health of future generations – but this is one occasion
where the young can actively support their older mums and dads who, as
we know, are more susceptible to this awful infection.”
Professor Naomi Allen, UK Biobank Chief Scientist
First results from the analysis of the first 3,360 samples collected
in the UK Biobank COVID-19 serology study
These Week 1 participants included predominantly UK Biobank
participants because, in general, they responded sooner and were
selected first. They therefore tended to be older, of White ethnic
background, to live in rural areas and in less socio-economically
deprived areas than the study sample as a whole.
COVID-19 infection varied significantly by region, being highest in
London (9.8%) and lowest in Wales (2.8%).
Men & women
Of the 3,360 samples tested, 5.6% were positive, and 94.4% were
negative. There was no evidence of a difference in seroprevalence by
gender, being 5.6% in men and 5.5% in women.
Seroprevalence of COVID-19 infection declined significantly with age,
ranging from 9% in those aged under 50 to 3.4% in those aged 70 or