Hospital transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is a major public health concern.
Evidence shows that healthcare workers (HCWs) are at high risk of developing COVID-19 while at work, and may themselves contribute to transmission in the hospital.
The SAFER study evaluated whether 200 HCWs at UCLH, followed for 12 weeks during the first wave of COVID-19 were at risk of catching SARS-CoV-2 at work. The first month of results reported high rates (44%) of infection, and 38% of infections were asymptomatic.
With SAFER-PLUS we have the opportunity to continue the study of transmission in the hospital setting during subsequent waves of COVID-19, for up to 12 months. Swabs, oral fluid and blood samples will be collected for laboratory assays, and online questionnaires will capture symptom data. This allows us to assess how long infections can last, and if antibody levels following an infection drop over time increasing the risk of re-infection. We can also continue to study HCW behaviour, movement and
interactions, to help inform hospital policy towards risk reduction of transmission.
SAFER-PLUS will also include other clinical work settings such as the Camden and Islington NHS Trust, that includes Highgate Mental Health Centre, and a number of care homes. This expansion of recruitment will also help to answer questions on clinical outcomesin Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
(BAME) HCWs, and assess what makes COVID-19 more severe in some people. The study will recruit HCWs aged 16 years and older, including those that may have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
SAFER-PLUS will also allow collaborations with more in depth studies into loss of taste and smell, mental health and wellbeing, and virus transmission to pets. It will also provide re-infection data to the national SIREN HCW study, and residual samples for the Francis Crick Institute’s LEGACY cohort.
SAFER-PLUS has full ethics approval from REC and HRA
SARS-CoV-2 Acquisition in Frontline Healthcare Workers - Evaluation to inform Response–PLUS
IRAS no: 290628, REC reference: 20/EE/0298
Sponsor: University College London Hospitals (UCLH)
Sponsors Protocol no / EDGE: 136676