Study looks to understand prevalence of COVID-19 in children and teenagers

A new study will be vital in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 by determining how many children and teenagers have been infected during the pandemic, and what proportion of those didn’t show symptoms.

The study, led by Professor Matthew Snape from the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, Dr David Turner at the University of Nottingham and Dr Simon Royal at the University of Nottingham Health Service, will also establish how many children and teenagers have not yet been infected and may remain susceptible to COVID-19 when lockdown measures are relaxed.

The multi-site project, called ‘What’s the STORY?’ has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). 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.

To understand the coronavirus pandemic, we need to find out how many people are becoming infected without showing any obvious symptoms.”

any obvious symptoms.”

‘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.

The funding will allow the project to expand and recruit an additional 1,200 children and teenagers (aged 0-19 years) from across England, including in Nottingham.

The team will test blood samples for COVID-19 antibodies and these data, along with medical histories of COVID-19 symptoms, will provide valuable information into the levels of the Coronavirus circulating in this segment of the population.

“In this project we will systematically study the proportion of children and teenagers with possible immunity against the Coronavirus during the course of the pandemic,” adds Dr Turner.

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?

“The information this study will provide is vital to determine the best public health strategies to manage this devastating outbreak,” says Dr Turner.

‘What’s the STORY?’ is a collaborative study with a network of clinical sites across England, including: Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton and St George’s, London.

A key aspect of the 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 research team is 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.

The study will involve:

  • A single visit to the research facility (University of Nottingham Health Service, Cripps Health Centre, on University Park in Nottingham). The whole appointment will take about 45 minutes. Volunteers must be aged 0 – 19 years to take part in the study, and if under 16 years should attend with a parent/guardian who will consent to their participation in the study.
  • Confidential questionnaire – on general health issues.
  • A single (small) blood sample taken from the arm or hand after numbing cream has been applied.
  • All participants will receive a £20 voucher as reimbursement for taking part in the study.

Study information booklets for parents, and child and adult volunteers, are available at:

Potential volunteers, or their parent/guardian, can apply to take part by completing the application form on this website.

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