According to a July 15, 2020 announcement posted on NewsWise, Vysnova Partners Inc., Wake Forest Baptist Health, and several other health organizations have received a $54-million contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to coordinate public health research on COVID-19 in the U.S. The organizations are collaborating on a prospective, multi-site study that aims to answer key epidemiological and clinical questions about the novel coronavirus. As part of the two-year contract, the teams will study blood samples collected from patients and healthcare workers at participating health systems in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.
The research study will determine COVID-19 prevalence, incidence, and clinical consequences through an examination of geographic, demographic, and chronologic distributions. According to the NewsWise announcement, the program management team at Vysnova Partners Inc. hopes the study will help them develop a more complete understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness, by determining the frequency of infection, how it is transmitted and who gets infected. Their findings will help public health planning moving forward.
The effectiveness of personal protective equipment will be analyzed among participating healthcare workers. Study participants will be asked to report on their daily exposures to COVID-19, their risk-reduction behaviors, and any respiratory disease symptoms they experience. The reporting mechanism will be a secure app they can access via a smartphone, tablet or computer. Electronic health record data will be accessed to complement the data reported by participants.
In addition to providing health data and reports, a sample of participants will receive Mitra® Blood Collection Kits developed by Neoteryx, a medical device company based in Torrance, California. The Mitra® devices in the kits will enable them to collect their own blood samples at home. Using a simple fingerstick method and a Mitra microsampling device, participants will collect small samples of blood they can place in an included mailing pouch for shipping directly to the lab for analysis. The labs will conduct serology studies to identify levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.
The presence of antibodies in a blood sample indicates that a person has already had a COVID-19 exposure or COVID-19 illness—with or without symptoms—and has since recovered. The presence of antibodies in their blood may confer some degree of immunity against a future infection. It is thought that a higher level of antibodies in the blood, confers a higher degree of immunity against COVID-19. However, how much immunity these antibodies provide, and at which levels, requires further investigation by the research teams.
NewsWise reports that North Carolina-based Wake Forest Baptist Health will serve as the lead investigative institution for the public health study, and The George Washington University’s Biostatistics Center will serve as the data coordinating center that will analyze all the information collected. Some of the other participating organizations include Oracle Corp., LabCorp, Atrium Health, MedStar Health, the University of Maryland Medical System, University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.