Alumni engagement and philanthropy

Socially distanced members of Dr Tom Waterfield's team pictured from above in the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

05 May 2020

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.

In collaboration with Public Health England the Queen’s study team are 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 before 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 children 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 may be 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.

Legacy Manager at Queen’s, Susan Wilson, commented: “Thanks to this amazing legacy gift from our late graduate and friend Alexander Leckey, the team at Queen’s is able to explore this extensive pool of research data to expand their knowledge of the pandemic.

“It is hugely reassuring to see how legacy gifts are helping to develop solutions that will benefit our society here in Northern Ireland, across the UK and globally at this most challenging and unprecedented time,” she added.

For further information on leaving a legacy to Queen’s University Belfast, please contact Legacy Manager, Susan Wilson.

To submit graduate news items, or for general enquiries about this story, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.

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