University of Birmingham academic awarded grant for rapid COVID research

COVID-19 cell
Dr Adrian Shields has been awarded £20,000 by the ACB's COVID-19 Scientific Scholarship

A University of Birmingham academic is one of three UK scientists awarded a share of £50,000 to develop innovative research to improve the care of COVID-19 patients thanks to a grant from the Association for Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine’s (ACB) COVID-19 Scientific Scholarship, supported by Abbott. 

The scientists, based at university and NHS laboratories, will look at using biomedical tests and data to improve healthcare for COVID-19 patients by predicting severe health outcomes and developing a saliva-based test for people who are asymptomatic or those who have mild symptoms, in order to create more reliable population-level COVID-19 estimates.

As hospitals continue to admit people with COVID-19, there is an urgent need to improve patient care and outcomes, particularly through early identification of those at higher risk of complications. Therefore, the projects will be completed within 12 months.

Dr Adrian Shields from the University’s Clinical Immunology Service, who is a member of the ACB, was awarded £20,000 for a project that aims to measure the antibody response in the saliva of mild and asymptomatic people, which, it is hoped, could contribute to better quality estimates of the level of COVID-19 within a population. Knowing the level of COVID-19 within a population can guide public health policy during the pandemic.

Dr Shields said: “I’m delighted that the ACB are supporting our work. We have already collected thousands of blood serum and saliva samples from hospital and community-based health care workers who have been at very high risk of exposure to the virus causing COVID-19.

“By measuring levels of the antibodies created to get rid of the virus in saliva samples and comparing them to blood serum samples, we hope to gain insight into the immunity in the saliva against the virus and consider whether saliva can be used as an alternative to serum for determining the level of COVID-19 infection within a population. Our findings may have important implications for vaccine development and future epidemiological studies.”

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