Engagement & Advancement Advisory Body are  inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting
Tuesday, 15th February 2022 at 1pm.

COVID-19 Research Completed by Early Career Medical Scientists


Introduction by Darren Bourke, Member EA AB, Senior Medical Scientist Blackrock Clinic Dublin


Evaluation of the antibody response induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the effect prior COVID-19 infection has on the response elicited by the vaccine.
Conor Rooney, Medical Scientist – Mercy University Hospital

Conor currently works in the Microbiology Laboratory in the Mercy University Hospital in Cork. He has been a medical scientist here since 2017 having completed his degree in CIT/UCC. In 2019  Conor began his MSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Ulster. As part of his final year thesis he began a study alongside Dr Deirdre O’Brien to look at the Antibody response to the Pfizer vaccine. The study began in January 2021 and will continue until the end of 2021.

Understanding the immune memory of individuals who have naturally contracted SARS CoV-2 versus naïve individuals might help to optimise the vaccination campaigns. Here we describe the Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG response induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in both naive individuals and those with prior confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. We also look at the durability of that response over a six-month period.
This study enrolled a total of 219 participants who had completed the full course of the Pfizer BioNTech BNT162b1 COVID 19 vaccine. SARS CoV-2 IgG levels were measured at two different stages over a period of six months using Abbott Architect SARS-CoV-2 IgG II quantitative assay.
After two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech BNT162b1 COVID 19 vaccine, the median SARS CoV-2 IgG concentration from all participants was 4866 AU/mL (IQR 2738-8424). Median IgG levels in naïve individuals was 4219 AU/mL (IQR 2450-7602). Median SARS CoV-2 IgG levels were significantly higher in those with a previous SARS CoV-2 infection at 8323 AU/mL (IQR 4728-16579 p<0.001). Median SARS-CoV-2 IgG levels decreased to 953 AU/mL (IQR 512-1730) after six months post vaccination. This represented a median decrease of 80% between the two testing periods.
Our findings suggest that those with natural infection before vaccination produce a higher IgG response than naïve individuals as shown by a nearly 2-fold increase in the median concentrations between the two groups. SARS-CoV-2 IgG levels showed a median decline of 2% per day.


Validation of three rapid and two high-throughput PCR testing platforms for SARS-CoV-2 testing using Copan eNAT™ viral lysis swabs containing guanidine thiocyanate
Amy Duffy, Medical Scientist – St Vincents Hospital. Medical Science Graduate – TU Dublin

Amy Duffy is a medical scientist working in the Microbiology Department of St Vincent’s University Hospital. She recently graduated with a first class honours degree in Biomedical Science from Technological University Dublin. Her final year thesis was entitled ‘Validation of three rapid and two high-throughput PCR testing platforms for SARS-CoV-2 testing using Copan eNAT™ viral lysis swabs containing guanidine thiocyanate’. It compares the performance of a new swab type with added lysis buffer across the SARS-CoV-2 testing methods employed in St Vincent’s University Hospital. She is looking forward to sharing her work at the Early Career Scientist Contribution to COVID-19 Research Webinar. 

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the third beta coronavirus to cause a pandemic. With up to 30% of cases asymptomatic in nature, an effective testing strategy is needed to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Previously, samples for SARS-CoV-2 testing underwent a ten-minute viral inactivation step upon arrival to the laboratory in St Vincent’s University Hospital. The use of Copan eNAT™ swabs containing inactivation media aimed to remove this step, resulting in quicker turnaround times. As part of this study, Copan eNAT™ swabs were tested on the rapid and high throughput PCR methods used in St Vincent’s University Hospital. In total, 190 samples were used to validate Copan eNAT™ swabs for SARS-CoV-2 testing. For rapid and high-throughput methods, Copan eNAT™ swabs eliminated the need for viral inactivation. The use of Copan eNAT™ swabs has ultimately led to faster turnaround times, quicker results and better infection prevention and control procedures.


Validation of the Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device for Use in the Emergency Department on Symptomatic Patients
Sarah Jane O’Connor, Medical Scientist – Tallaght University Hospital. Medical Science Graduate – GMIT

Sarah completed her degree in Medical Science at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, and set to graduate this November. Sarah completed her 3rd year placement in The Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore. During placement, she developed a great interest in microbiology and in 4th year majored in microbiology and clinical chemistry. The microbiology department in Tullamore hospital were kind enough to facilitate her final year project and allowed her to complete a fascinating and topical research project in the area of COVID 19.  Sarah is currently working in the microbiology department at Tallaght University Hospital.

The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has put considerable strain on global healthcare systems. This respiratory illness is caused by SARS-CoV-2. This virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets expelled from infected individuals. The quick identification of infectious individuals is essential for the timely isolation of the individual in order to stop transmission in hospitals. Currently, the most common method of SARS-CoV-2 detection is with reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Many laboratories in Ireland are struggling to meet the local demand for testing. Antigen detection is a cheaper and easy to perform alternative detection method. This study aimed to validate The Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device for use in symptomatic patients who entered the emergency department of Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore (MRHT). This antigen test reliably identified SARS-CoV-2 antigen in samples with high viral loads, demonstrated by low cycle threshold (CT) values. The specificity was excellent at 100%, with no false positive antigen test results. However, the calculated sensitivity of 71.4% was less than that obtained by the manufacturer at 93%. The test could not detect SARS-CoV-2 antigen in samples with corresponding positive RT-PCR results with CT values above 26.5 and considered potentially infectious. As the sensitivity of this antigen assay is low, there is a risk of a substantial number of false negative antigen results in a cohort of patients that are considered potentially infectious, with CT values within the range of 26.5-35.

Live Panel Q & A

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