Blood samples for COVID-19 research

NHS Blood and transplant is providing blood samples to support Public Health England research into COVID-19.

These are the samples we take for safety checks every time someone gives blood. Some are now also being used in research to better understand how many people in the population may have antibodies to the coronavirus.

Your donation will still help save and improve people’s lives and this research does not change the way we collect, process or test your blood.

What is NHS Blood and Transplant’s role in this research?

We are providing randomised, anonymised samples of blood for the research which will be tested to understand how many people have the antibody against coronavirus.

Do blood donors know that their donations are being tested by the government at Porton Down?

When blood is used in research it is not routine to tell donors about the findings. In this instance, the samples are random and anonymised, so no results are being shared with donors at this time.

Can you let me know if antibodies were found in my sample?

Data protection requirements mean no information about your identity has been shared with the third parties involved in testing the samples. They cannot determine from the sample who you are. 

However, it is possible that we can match the results back to you without compromising your data or privacy by using the secure barcode stuck onto the test tubes.

There is a benefit in doing this and we are reviewing if this can be done without jeopardising the validity of the trial and a decision will be made soon.

Did I give consent for my blood to be used in this way?

When you give blood, we ask if your blood can be used for research.

Our blood donation welcome booklet describes that we may use samples of blood for research when you donate.

There is an urgent need to understand more about COVID-19 and we are supporting this research by providing randomised sets of blood samples from our donors.

These samples are additional to the whole unit of blood you have donated.

Your lifesaving donation will go on to be used for patient care as normal and is unaffected by this work. 

Why aren’t you testing blood donations for coronavirus?

We routinely screen blood for certain viruses and diseases to ensure it is safe for transfusion.

There are currently no plans to expand this work to include the novel coronavirus because there is no evidence that it can be passed on through blood transfusions.

We have triaging at blood donation sessions to stop anyone who has symptoms of the virus from donating.

Separate to routine blood donations, we are running a trial to see if plasma from people who have recovered from COIVID-19 can help patients who are seriously ill to fight off the virus.

For the trial to work, samples from these donations are tested to determine the exact levels of antibodies against the virus in each one.

Most of these donors are known to have already tested positive for COIVID-19 and there is a very different reason for needing to do this test compared to routine blood donations.

Can I get a coronavirus test if I give blood?

You will not get a coronavirus test by coming to give blood because there is no evidence of transmission through blood donation.

A small number of blood samples are being provided to Public Health England for research purposes. This is separate to the normal testing and screening we do on blood donations, which does not include checking for coronavirus.

If you are donating as part of the convalescent plasma trial, then your donation will be tested to understand how high your antibody levels are.

Are you giving blood donations to coronavirus research instead of patients?

No. The blood samples being used are not the regular blood donation unit – they are the samples we routinely take when someone gives blood and use to check that their donation is safe for use.

Once we have done our routine screening for other diseases and viruses a small number of samples are then going on to be used in the seroprevalence research.

How much donated blood is being used for this research?

This research is testing up to 2,000 test tube-sized samples a week (comparatively we collect around 25,000 units of blood a week).

We are working closely with the Wellcome Trust and Public Health England to facilitate further requests for blood samples as the research continues.