Sample collection will help us understand COVID-19

Written by  , ASCOT Coordinating Principal Investigator

As part of the ASCOT trial, we are establishing a collection of blood and other samples that are donated by people enrolled in the study, which will be used for research, immediately and into the future. 

When new diseases like COVID come along, there are lots of questions that need to be answered. We want to understand why some people get very unwell and some hardly know they’ve been sick. We want to work out how the body responds to infection, and what shows that we’ve recovered. Knowing the answer to these kind of questions is the foundation for developing new vaccines, treatments and tests. We want to understand everything we can about this virus and how our bodies respond to infection, so that we can map safe and effective ways to help people recover.

We’re not the only people who want these answers, and many researchers across Australia and around the world are looking for them. That’s a very good thing, but sometimes three or four teams could be working on the same problem, or working with only part of the material or information that they need. That’s where this research collection comes in. ASCOT has a network of hospitals across Australia and New Zealand, all collecting the same information and blood and other samples from people infected with SARS-CoV-2. We’re all working together to bring that into one system, to give the best chance of finding compelling answers to important questions as quickly as possible. That’s the reason why we’re establishing this ASCOT collection, which will hold all of those samples, and provide a pathway for many types of different research to be done. Sample collections of this kind have been used around the world to help find better tailored treatments, understand the spread of infections, and develop new tests for a range of conditions.

I’m an infectious diseases physician. I work with sick people in hospitals, rather than doing research in a laboratory. That’s true for lots of us involved in setting up this study. We’re not building this collection just so that we can answer one or two particular questions in our own research project. Instead, we want to make this collection available so that many different research teams can work on answering these questions at the same time. The ASCOT team will be actively looking to partner with any other research groups asking important questions about COVID, and we want to open this collection so that we can start getting the answers we need as soon as possible.

The ASCOT trial is a truly collective effort. It will involve many healthcare workers, hospitals and laboratories, researchers and technicians. Most importantly, though, a research collection like this can only exist because of the generosity of people who participate, and even while they themselves are sick, agree to donate samples so that we can work towards better treatment for others. This is a resource that our whole community will contribute to, and we hope it will be a powerful tool that we can use to repay that many times over.