UCL-led care home study expanded to prevent COVID-19 spread

Testing the immune response of care home staff and residents to COVID-19 is to be expanded to help combat the spread of the virus among vulnerable people, as part of a UCL-led study.

The Vivaldi 2 study will more than triple in size to provide a detailed picture of coronavirus infection in care homes in England.

The findings will improve understanding of these vulnerable groups’ immune response to COVID-19 and offer crucial data to help inform future treatments for the virus, including vaccine development.

The major research study - now the biggest of its kind in the UK - is being delivered in collaboration with University of Birmingham, University of Oxford and the Francis Crick Institute. It has been funded by the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC).

Through quarterly blood testing of 14,000 care home residents and staff, researchers can analyse how antibody and cellular immunity to the virus differs among different groups.

The study will help government officials and public health experts decide which measures to put into place in order to prevent future COVID-19 infections in care homes, shaping the national public health response to COVID-19 as well as wider social care policy.

Dr Laura Shallcross (UCL Institute of Health Informatics), said: "Expanding the Vivaldi study will tell us how many people living and working in care homes have been infected with COVID-19, and whether being infected once protects against future infections. This unique study will help us protect the most vulnerable members of society from this devastating infection."

The Vivaldi study was set up in May 2020 with the aim of understanding how COVID-19 has affected care homes in England.

It is examining how many people living and working in care homes have evidence of immunity to COVID-19, how long this immunity lasts and whether it protects from further infection.

It is also investigating how infection levels differ between care homes and what factors might explain these differences.

For Vivaldi 2, the number of care homes taking part will increase from 100 to 340, testing approximately 4,500 residents and 9,500 staff.

It will incorporate a wider range of small care home chains and independent providers, to ensure results are representative of all care homes in England.

The team will address important immunity research questions such as whether individuals can be infected twice, how quickly neutralising antibodies wane and whether the immune response in the elderly is the same in younger generations.

By linking immunity data with epidemiological data, researchers will better understand the links between infection, demography and clinical outcome on the elderly and the impact of differences in care homes on the spread of the virus in the sector.

The study complements ongoing DHSC work to support the care sector, including the launch this week of a new testing pilot for care home visitors, planned to be rolled out more widely in December.

Minister for Care, Helen Whately, added: "Expanding this brilliant study, with the support of UCL, is another step towards improving our understanding of the virus. Testing people’s antibody reaction to COVID-19 is crucial in helping us to control the spread of the virus, particularly amongst people who are vulnerable.

"The more we know about this virus and are able to control it, the safer it will be for people in care homes."

Testing in the new homes is being phased in during November.

Vivaldi 2 is expected to last until April 2022, with the exact end date determined by how prevalent COVID-19 is in the tested care homes.


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