I Was Part Of A Covid-19 Testing Research Study

Well, this post is a little bit different isn’t it? A few weeks ago, I received a letter in the post from the NHS, on behalf of Imperial College London, asking if I was willing to participate in a Covid-19 testing research study and the testing process. After mentioning it to a few friends, they all suggested I write a little something about it as others might find it interesting or helpful, so here we are.

cotton swabs in a clear plastic pot on a light purple background

I’ve tried not to mention the C-Word or lockdown too much on here as it feels like it’s very much a constant conversation that I don’t really want to be a part of all the time, and I would hate to add to anyone’s anxiety. So please, feel free to browse my other posts if this feels a bit too much or you need a break from Covid-19 chat.

How it all started

As I mentioned before, it all started about 2 weeks ago when I received a letter from the NHS. It said that I had been randomly selected to be part of a Covid-19 testing research study, which was being conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation here in the UK. 

I’ll be honest, and maybe this is weird, but I was quite excited to have been chosen. It felt a bit like when I was chosen for jury service in a way! I described it to my flatmate as almost feeling like a part of history; looking back on this time will obviously be very upsetting but I will be able to tell my children about being a part of this study and doing my tiny little bit to help out. 

So, what is the Covid-19 testing research study about?

The research is being conducted to help the UK Government with its planning and approach to Covid-19 testing. The test may be able to show whether I currently have the virus, which can help to assess the spread of the virus across the country, including people who are not showing any symptoms. Therefore, it can also help to work out roughly the proportion of people that may be asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms but carrying the virus).

The testing process

Upon receiving the letter and deciding I wanted to take part, I had to register online. This involved filling out a short form that confirmed my personal details and whether I gave consent to take part in the study. Once this was complete, I was advised that my testing kit would arrive within the next few days. 

Once my testing kit had arrived, it advised that I first needed to book a free courier slot to collect my test. I had to book this first so that the test was as fresh as possible. It’s very clear in all the letters and instructions to not take the test before having booked your collection slot. Again, this was all done online and took 2 minutes to do. 

My collection was at 8am on a Sunday morning, so I got up early ready to do my test. The kit provides you with a swab test, to be done on your nose and throat, an instruction booklet on how to administer the test, a biohazard bag and vial to put the completed test in, and a flat-pack box to build to contain everything once the test is complete. 

To do the test, you have to first wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds, as per the current guidelines. The, you need to prepare a clean and dry surface to place the testing kit on. Check that nothing from the kit checklist is missing before carrying on. 

Now comes the actual testing part. It says to use a mirror and open your mouth to find your tonsils. I have had mine removed so I just took a bit of a guess really! It says to gently blow your nose and cough into a tissue, wash our hands again, and the gently rub the swab over your tonsils (or where they used to be in my case) and the back of your throat for at least 10 seconds. Now, I won’t lie, it’s not particularly pleasant. I found I was gagging quite a lot, and it also felt a bit tickley, but it wasn’t painful.  Next up was the nose swab, which you use the same swab for. Personally, I think I was more grossed out by having to put the wet swab from the back of my throat up my nose, but maybe that’s just me! The instructions say to insert the swab up each nostril about 1 inch, or until you feel a bit of resistance. Rotate the swab for 10-15 seconds in each nostril. Again, not painful but not a nice feeling, especially not very early in the morning.

I’m not sure if every Covid-19 test is exactly the same as this, but if it is, it’s not great. It only took me about 5 minutes to complete but it is all a bit uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Then it was just a case of packaging everything up and giving it to the courier, social distance style, in my dressing gown! 

There is also a short survey to complete after sending off your test, which asks questions about how you found the test itself, whether it was difficult to self-administer, and details of any symptoms you have had in the past.

The results

I received the results of my test about 5 days after sending it off and completing the survey. Whilst the test can’t claim to be 100% accurate, it did come back that I was negative for Covid-19, meaning I do not currently have the virus. This doesn’t mean that I haven’ had it in the past, but just that I am unlikely to have it right now, which is great! The results were sent to me in a text and on email as well.

Overall, I found taking part in the Covid-19 testing research study really interesting. Whilst the test itself was quite unpleasant, being able to be a part of the experience and potentially help further the research into testing was definitely a positive thing for me. 

Have you had a test for Covid-19, or have any questions about my experience? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Britt K says

    I think that it’s great that they are working on figuring out self-administered testing like this. That could be a great way to test more people without requiring people to travel to testing centers, etc. where they can come in contact with others who are carrying the virus.

    • whatabigailsays says

      Yeah definitely! The test itself was really easy to do as well with very clear instructions so hopefully it will be something that can be rolled out to the general public soon!

  2. claire says

    This was really interesting to read. I honestly think I am more worried about having to be tested than actually having it, silly huh? But now reading this, I don’t feel as concerned thankfully.

    Great to be part of something so important x

    • whatabigailsays says

      It’s not silly! I think testing feel inevitable whereas getting it is more down to chance so I can understand it. But it’s really not too bad so I wouldn’t worry about it x

  3. Lauren Victoria says

    This was such an interesting read and such an insightful way to learn more about what they’re currently researching to try to help the current situation! I think it’s so good how you were able to administrate the test yourself xx

    Lauren | itslaurenvictoria.co.uk

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