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How Alexander’s unrestricted legacy gift is funding research into COVID-19 in children

Thanks to an unrestricted legacy gift from University alumnus Alexander Leckey from Belfast, a team of researchers at Queen’s University Belfast has initiated a leading-edge research project to address how COVID-19 affects children.

The research team at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

In collaboration with Public Health England the Queen’s study team is tracking 300 to 500 children of healthcare workers from across the UK over a period of six months. This prospective study, called ‘Rapid-19’, uses blood sample and throat/saliva and nasal swab analysis to determine whether a child has had the virus without showing symptoms or has active infection, and to track inflammation levels and how their bodies respond to the virus.

The team aims to determine if children are being infected at a similar rate as adults, how many have been infected already and how many have potential immunity.

Lead clinician Dr Tom Waterfield from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, explained:

“The evidence to date suggests that children are less vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus. What is unclear is how many children have already been infected, how many have potential immunity and why a small number develop an extreme, unexplained immune response to the disease.”

Dr Waterfield’s team comprises almost 20 individuals including Queen’s Professor Mike Shields and Dr Chris Watson from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, as well as virologists, and paediatricians from the Belfast Trust.

The team has in-kind support from local healthcare provider, the Ulster Independent Clinic, through provision of clinical rooms and lab space for the research.

Thanks to this amazing legacy gift from our late graduate and friend Alexander Leckey, the team at Queen’s is able to explore solutions that will benefit society here in Northern Ireland, across the UK and globally at this most challenging and unprecedented time.