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COVID-19: all hands on deck, but are we preserving samples for future research?

Colin Garner ANTRUK announcements, Coronavirus COVID-19

Many organisations that perform medical and scientific research activities are joining the fight against COVID-19. Others are closed, or running a reduced service. Here’s why we need to make sure biobanking is still a top priority.

Biobanking is the process of collecting and safely storing samples of human tissues and fluids for analysis. These can be linked to the patient they are taken from, either to their entire medical record or, more often, to their current health status/basic demographic information.

The importance of biobanking

The importance of biobanking cannot be overstated. This work is absolutely vital, as it ensures we have a wealth of knowledge about a condition and the ability to go back and test new theories against existing samples. But at times like these, many medical and scientific professionals and facilities are being repurposed. This means that ‘business as usual’ is all but forgotten. Fortunately, several biobanking organisations have confirmed that they will be supporting future research into COVID-19. They will continue to collect and store samples for future research. They’re even coordinating this effort with other organisations to ensure we have a rich catalogue of samples to work from.

However, while the news covers stories about the use of biobanking to record and study genetic data, which it is hoped will explain why some seemingly healthy people get severely ill with COVID-19 while others don’t, there has not been a mention of analysing patient samples for bacterial infections. Given that only one of the 28 COVID-19 patients with a secondary bacterial infection  survived in one study, this should be an area of key interest.

We already know that antibiotics are being overused in general, and they are being given as a matter of course to most patients who are hospitalised with COVID-19, which could lead to an increase in antibiotic resistance. By saving our antibiotics, we save patients with countless medical conditions around the world; to do that, we must invest heavily in researching both the drugs and the bacterial infections they treat.

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