Honorary Fellow Ben Delo (2002) supports Oxford University COVID-19 researchers

6 April 2020

Researchers from the University of Oxford have received a generous philanthropic gift from Honorary Fellow and Old Member Ben Delo (2002) to conduct a UK cross-sectional survey study to determine the level of community-based infection of COVID-19.

The current global COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly increasing in scale and there is an urgent need to determine the background rate of infection in the UK to inform the public health response. 

Knowing the true COVID-19 prevalence in UK communities would dramatically inform the actions required to contain the outbreak and is vital for risk communication to the public. There is also an opportunity to compare diagnostic tools and validate an emerging pathogen-agnostic approach, which could greatly improve pandemic preparedness for future novel pathogen outbreaks.

Professor Mike Bonsall from the Department of Zoology is working alongside colleagues Dr Cassidy Nelson and Dr Simeon Innocent to explore the use of nanopore technology (which sequences the whole genome of pathogens) as a diagnostic tool, comparing with serology and PCR tests for COVID-19. Unlike these more conventional methods, nanopore sequencing does not require prior knowledge of the pathogen, making it unique in its ability to potentially assist in diagnosis of new emergent infectious diseases. 

“We have been grateful to receive generous and flexible philanthropic support from Ben Delo and Effective Giving to conduct this study”, said Professor Bonsall. “We propose a cross-sectional community-based survey will prove crucial to allow us to determine how common COVID-19 is in the UK community. Using rapid diagnostics, we will explore a new method of pathogen detection, which if widely adopted could prove crucial to early containment of future novel disease outbreaks.”

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