A PAEDIATRICIAN is helping with vital research into how young people transmit coronavirus.

Dr Katy Fidler, consultant paediatrician in infectious diseases at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, is collaborating on the research project alongside two other medical experts.

Rockinghorse, the official charity for the children’s hospital, is helping to fund the project, which could help guide government policy on plans to reopen schools and colleges and how best to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic in coming months.

Dr Fidler said: “Brighton was the city with the first known UK ‘Covid-19 super spreader’, but luckily the city has been relatively unaffected so far, compared to London.

“This could be for a number of reasons, but further knowledge of the percentage of asymptomatic infections in teenagers at school pre-lockdown would aid our understanding into how this pandemic may evolve, post-lockdown.”

The study, which uses throat swabs collected from school pupils in Brighton and around the country, originally began as a research study of meningitis vaccines, led by the University of Oxford.

But the samples, which were taken in February and March, allow scientists to study the spread of coronavirus. As approval was in place for the samples to be used in subsequent research related to infectious diseases, the swabs can be used to test for SARS CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

Professor of infectious diseases at the University of Bristol Adam Finn, who is also involved in the project, said: “This set of samples now provides a unique opportunity to study the spread of the epidemic during this critical period. Laboratories at the University of Bristol have set up a highly accurate test for the virus, which will now be used to analyse this important sample set.”

The research team has 1,406 throat swabs taken from UK students at a time when the virus had just hit. Researchers will be able to determine the percentage of these students who were well and showing no symptoms of Covid-19, but were unknowingly carrying the virus and potentially spreading it. They will then be able to use these figures to compare the asymptomatic ‘carrier’ rates to the disease rates in Brighton, and will be able to make comparisons with other cities.