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Study with Lifelines data into the transmission of the coronavirus within households

25 March 2021

How is it possible in many cases that when someone contracts the coronavirus, their family members do not become infected? The RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) will use data from the Lifelines coronavirus study to research how the transmission of the coronavirus within families works. To this end, the antibodies in the blood of 500 families in the Northern Netherlands will be studied.

Unnoticed antibodies

Through serological testing, it will be determined whether other family members have developed coronavirus antibodies. If this is the case, this means that they have possibly contracted the coronavirus in the past – possibly without knowing it. As a result, important questions can be answered. For example, how well these people are protected against contracting the coronavirus again, and whether they react differently to the vaccine. The extent to which older family members infect younger ones, and vice versa, will also be studied.

Looking for answers in our DNA

Lude Franke, Professor of Genetics at the UMCG, explains: ‘For the Lifelines coronavirus study, we have been intensively monitoring participants since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, we have sent out a survey 19 times, including the question of whether people experienced symptoms that could align with a coronavirus infection. Together with the data from the serological testing, this information will provide new insights into transmission within households. We have already found spots in DNA that could lead to people experiencing more severe coronavirus symptoms faster after being infected, so there could also be spots in DNA that ensure that people are protected against contracting the coronavirus or experiencing severe symptoms.’

Three generations

Thanks to the Lifelines coronavirus study, the Northern Netherlands possesses a unique collection of health data. The study is a joint initiative in which thousands of Lifelines participants across three generations have participated. The study therefore includes many families in which various family members have given blood in the past few months. In 18% of the participating households with children, at least one family member has been infected with the coronavirus, as can be seen on www.coronabarometer.nl.

Last modified:06 April 2021 3.31 p.m.
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