New “pop-up” blood donation centres are being launched to help a study into why some people become very ill with Covid-19 while others do not.
The GenOMICC Covid-19 Study analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced no symptoms while others became extremely ill.
Researchers said that for the study to continue to make progress and generate meaningful results they need to recruit more people from all backgrounds across Scotland, and especially from the country’s South Asian and Pakistani communities.
Pop up blood donation centres are now being set up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with support from Muslim leaders, to make it easier for people to give blood samples to help the research.
Dr Kenneth Baillie, the study’s chief investigator, said: “We’re issuing an urgent appeal for more volunteers from all walks of life – and in particular for people from South Asian and Pakistani communities – to come forward and register as soon as possible.
“We need to find people who tested positive for Covid but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment.
“For comparison purposes, it’s important that these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.
“Through my work as a consultant in intensive care in Edinburgh, I’ve met many patients and their families who have agreed to participate in this research to help others, at one of the most difficult times in their lives.
“Many of these patients were from South Asian and Pakistani backgrounds – that’s why we urgently need suitable people from these communities to join the study to provide a comparison.”
Eligible volunteers will be able to donate a blood sample at temporary Covid-secure centres at Mercure Glasgow City Hotel in Ingram Street while participants in Edinburgh can donate at the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton Hotel in North Bridge.
If people don’t wish to travel, the scheme also offers volunteers the option of making an appointment for a nurse to visit their home.
Local Muslim communities have backed the scheme, with leaders in both cities helping distribute thousands of information leaflets and posters – translated into Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi – to its members.
Irfan Razzaq, general secretary at Glasgow Central Mosque, said: “Tragically, the pandemic’s effect has been more widely felt among all ethnic communities – including some who worship here – so it’s important we help those who are making such an important contribution in the fight against Covid.
“The results from the study will not only help us here in Scotland, they’ll be shared internationally and offer more protection to some of the most vulnerable groups of people around the world.”
The GenOMICC consortium is led by the University of Edinburgh and is working in partnership with Genomics England to analyse the whole genome sequences of people who were severely affected by Covid-19 and compare with those who only had it mildly.
The Covid-secure sample collection sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh will open from Thursday, March 4, with additional sites opening across Scotland in the coming weeks.
The research project is open to anyone who tested positive to Covid but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment.