Swansea University is seeking volunteers for wellbeing and COVID-19 research

Swansea University has put out calls for voluntary participants in two new research trials.

The first trial – called ICE-COVID – is seeking volunteers from South Wales to take part in research into over-the-counter nasal sprays and whether they are effective in protecting against COVID-19.

Scientists from the university are specifically looking into Carragelose, which contains a form of seaweed, and whether it can prevent COVID-19 illness or reduce the ‘severity of symptoms’, by trapping particles before they enter the body.

Key workers – including teachers, police and local authority staff, as well as anyone interacting with the public regularly for work, study or volunteering – are invited to take part. Participants should not yet have been vaccinated or previously tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr Zita Jessop, who is leading the research, said: “We have already recruited frontline NHS staff and are now opening this study to key workers who have not previously tested positive for COVID-19 and not yet received their vaccination. This is a chance to help with potentially ground-breaking research on preventing COVID-19 infection.”

Anyone interested in taking part can email Clinical.Research@wales.nhs.uk, citing their name and contact number.

A second research project, called Growing Together, is also underway at Swansea.

This study is recruiting ‘amateur gardeners’ from across the whole of the UK to find out how a ‘hat-trick’ of gardening, volunteering and being part of a community can benefit mental health over the course of a full growing season.

Believed to be the biggest study of its kind to look at all three aspects on such a large scale, the project will involve the National Botanic Garden of Wales sending free seeds to 2,000 volunteers, who will grow and nurture them this summer.

The ‘citizen scientists’ will then be asked to gather the seeds once the plants have blossomed, and send them back so that they can be planted at NHS hospitals and clinics next summer, for everyone to enjoy.

Volunteers will be part of an online community throughout, to offer gardening advice and wellbeing tips, and will also be asked to complete three 10-minute questionnaires during the study.

No previous garden know-how is required, nor a large space for growing, as each kit will provide instructions and a window box, patio container or small flower patch is all that’s required. While paid-for envelopes mean that participants can send their harvested seed collections back without any additional cost.

Botanic Garden project officer, Kathryn Thomas, said: “Our ‘Growing Together’ project is going to be a great way for people to contribute to an important research study, whilst growing some beautiful wildflowers. We are looking for people from all walks of life to take part – you don’t even need a garden.”

Swansea University’s Dr Luke Jefferies, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health, added: “As a psychologist I am very interested in exploring ways of enhancing the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment. What is exciting is this study is focused on wellbeing in its broadest sense and for everyone. It combines gardening, volunteering and the role of online communities, and that mix is very special. We’ll also be able to measure wellbeing over an entire growing season.”

To take part in the Growing Together Project you must be over 18. Register your interest by 11 April 2021 online.