COVID blood spot study – where are we up to?


The first thing to say is a massive thank you to everyone that has been involved so far – both in raising the funds for this study and signing up to take part. We couldn’t have got this far without you.

We have had a phenomenal response to this study. So far, in just over 4 months, we have recruited 320 people, and got hundreds of blood spots back. In the background, Nikki and her team have been working hard making up the packs, logging the blood spots when they come back, and making sure the assays are working perfectly.

So what next?

At the moment, we are selecting the blood spots to look at in the first round of analysis. Early information from Israel suggests that people on certain DMT, such as ocrelizumab have less of an antibody response to vaccination. By looking at this group in a bit more detail, and including factors such as the time since their last infusion, we may be able to shed a bit more light on how to time vaccines. We are also interested to look at the impact of different times between vaccine doses, and thanks to the number of people that have signed up we should be able to do this.  

I’m really aware that it can feel like a really long time from signing up to getting any results. There are a few reasons for this. We need to get enough samples that are 4-6 weeks after vaccine 2 to make sense of all of the results – and this just takes time. Also, we need to have enough people in each “group” that we look at, so that we can be sure that we can trust the results, and that they aren’t just the result of one person having slightly odd results. There is a worry about rushing out results that are then not reliable enough, which isn’t the right thing to do.

We are also really interested to understand the longer term response to vaccination – its all very well knowing what happens immediately, but what are the implications of this over next winter? Will booster jabs change this (if they happen)? There are so many questions – and this study really gives us the basis to be able to answer these in the future.

If there is anyone who is under the care of BartsMS who is keen to take part in this study and hasn’t yet enrolled, please let us know! Its not too late at all. We are still very much recruiting – and the more people that we have in the study, the more representative we can make the groups that we study, and the more questions we can answer. If you want to get in touch, comment below or drop us a line –

Please note that the opinions expressed here are those of DrRuth and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry or Barts Health NHS Trust.

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  • I can’t find any information on flares or relapse post vaccine, is this because it doesn’t exist or because no one is talking about it?

    • There is some early data from Israel here looking at the overall safety
      We have also been collecting similar data, and I think there was a blog post on it previously by DrK.

      The early information is that while people might get a transient (short term) worsening of their MS symptoms, which is probably linked to a mild fever in response to the vaccine, things tend to settle quite quickly. We are not currently seeing a signal for relapses post-vaccine – but are collecting the information to be able to answer this properly.

  • tx for letting us know – but here the question again – any t-cell analysis? – which i think will be most important as under OCR no antibodies are being made (me and 2 others here in switzerland with different timing).

    • We have plans for T cell studies.. but these can’t be done on blood spots.

      Some people on OCR are making antibodies – one question is whether we can identify ways of ensuring that people do form antibodies . Will manipulating the time between treatment and vaccination help? is there a “sweet spot” where you can have both? If we can’t detect antibodies first time round, how about after a booster which is able to be timed better with treatment? So many questions to be answered!

      • ok thank you – i gonna do a t-cell elispot test next week – i will let you know what the result was – i hope there will be something that might give at least some base defense against severe covid…(my timing was optimal – 22 weeks after las OCR infusion two pfizer shots)

  • Thanks for the latest news on this study Dr R. It looks as if you might be in a position to find out a lot about vaccine response. Would this include information you hadn’t originally planned to harvest? You suggested this type of bloodspot test might become applicable in other health settings? Is that going to be the case? If so, would that indicate that the same amount of information could be gleaned there too (other conditions)?

    I ask because someone I know said he had NO antibodies post dose 1. Obviously I didn’t ask if he’s on any medication but he’s had the second dose but no antibody test. He’s not a pwMS. The advantage here being that you only need a few mcg of blood from the bloodspots using this method, if I understand correctly…

    • Other conditions…yep absolutely

      Having no antibodies post first dose occurs, this was found in recent UK study where they looked at 45,000 people….I think I’m one of these….I needed 6 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine to get a response 🙁

      Our blood spot test needs one drop of blood (even half a drop)…there is one the government is doing and that needs about 0.5mL which is about ten drops of blood

  • Thank you for the update. Unfortunately I am not currently eligible to participate, as I am not under the care of BARTSMS. However I understand that you would like to expand this study to include other patients in different locations. Do you have any idea when this might happen?

    • Hi – sorry you haven’t been able to take part so far. At the moment we are working really hard to keep on top of all of the people from Barts! to spread out to other sites brings in logistical issues and so we really need more staff here working on the study to make that feasible…

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