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Coronavirus: universities call for volunteers for antibody study

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Three universities called for volunteers on Tuesday to take part in a study to determine whether particular groups in the population have Covid-19 antibodies.

Experts said they needed volunteers who had tested positive for the virus, health professionals working at Nicosia and Paphos general hospitals, and Makarios children’s hospitals, and from the general population who have not tested positive.

The study is a combined effort between the University of Cyprus (UCy), University of Nicosia, and the European University.

“The study aims at checking for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which we know is responsible for Covid-19 in three population groups in Cyprus,” said Dr Constantinos Deltas, professor of molecular genetics and head of the UCy’s centre of excellence.

The first phase entails recruiting volunteers to take part in the study by donating biological material.

People from the general population will be randomly selected through telephone calls. Tests to detect antibodies will be free of charge.

The data and genetic material collected will be used in studies designed to detect factors that potentially raise the risk of serious symptoms or protect the person from serious illness, Deltas said.

“Our team thinks it is still unpredictable how long the pandemic will endure and how many lives it would threaten worldwide,” Deltas said. “But as scientists we ought to do whatever we can with the tools at our disposal to better prepare the health system and the Cypriot population to manage it.”

To participate, those interested should contact UCy’s centre of excellence on 22892815 or through https://biobank.cy/

Deltas said the scientists wanted to know whether those who contracted Covid-19 had produced antibodies or if those recently infected had a higher proportion in their systems.

“We want to know if there are health professionals who haven’t realised, they produced antibodies,” he said. The same goes for the general population.

Deltas said they hoped for useful results in the next six months provided people volunteered for the study immediately, especially those who had tested positive.

“In such studies, the more the better.”

Participants will be asked to provide blood and urine samples and a detailed health record.

The cost of the study will be covered by UCy and EU funds

Professor of microbiology/molecular virology at the University of Nicosia medical school, Petros Karayiannis said to date, little is known about the quality and duration of antibodies.

What studies have shown is that at least asymptomatics seem not to produce the same proportion of antibodies as those who suffered serious symptoms.

“What we don’t know is whether people who fell ill are prone to get sick again,” Karayiannis said.

Assistant professor at the European University Giorgos Nicolopoulos said the study would allow scientists to see the real impact of the virus on the population, as it would also provide a good picture of undiagnosed cases.

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