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Day in the life blog: Research Nurse Andreas Ziakas

CRN South London Research Nurse Andreas Ziakas blogs about his work on the NIHR-supported INSTINCT study, which is surveying symptomatic COVID-19 patients and their household members.

The study is sponsored by Imperial College London (ICL) and the researchers are seeking to answer important public health questions, such as:

  • What is the proportion of asymptomatic cases in the UK?
  • Why does the severity of this disease differ greatly within cases?
  • What levels of immunity exist in the population?
  • How long does immunity last for?

Everyone who has consented to take part in the study receives nucleic acid throat swab tests for coronavirus and immunology tests on their blood samples and nasal swabs. All positive results are reported back to the volunteer’s GP for their records. Testing is undertaken in the patient’s home and the only involvement for GPs is to introduce the study and ask people presenting with COVID-19 symptoms if they would be happy for their details to be passed onto the NIHR Respiratory Infections Health Protection Research Unit at ICL.

I have been supporting INSTINCT since the end of September last year. My main duty has been to assist the other nurses. Sometimes, I am responsible for ensuring our infection control requirements are met by: storing samples, disinfecting equipment after use and in making sure that all personal protective equipment has been used correctly and disposed of. I can also be one of two nurses that go inside the homes to complete the research consenting process; we ensure all paperwork is completed correctly. Symptom diaries and samples are also collected and taken back to ICL for analysis.

Working on COVID-19 research means you are contributing directly to the solutions that will tackle this global pandemic. You get to experience first-hand the hard work that is going on behind the scenes, such as the dedication and commitment of the entire team in providing answers to questions that will influence public health policy and advice. I have also found it enlightening to witness the altruistic attitude of our volunteers, whose enrollment into INSTINCT comes without any personal reward but they know the results of this research will benefit everyone in the long run.

Recruitment into the study is going really well. Nearly 400 people have been recruited. This success has been achieved, in my opinion, thanks to the hard work of the ICL study team and our CRN. Household visits and study procedures have been running smoothly without any major setbacks or delays, which is a testament to the ICL, the training everyone has received and the superb collaborative effort between ICL and ourselves.

Schools, households, residential care homes and health and social care workers have been some of the worst affected by this global pandemic. The findings of INSTINCT will support these communities and will offer long term guidance around post lockdown infection control measures. Primary care research, through targeted early intervention, is essential in helping to alleviate the pressure on our NHS services and care home providers.

You can find out more about the INSTINCT study on the Health Research Authority's website.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.