CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Students, faculty members and staff at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who are asked to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure or a positive test now have the opportunity to participate in a study that will help inform the national effort to manage the pandemic.
The U. of I. viral dynamics study is part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative of the National Institutes of Health. The study seeks to determine how results from different testing methods correlate and answer questions regarding the early course of the virus and when someone becomes infectious after exposure. Those who test positive for SARS-CoV2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – or who are identified as close contacts of a positive case or other exposure may electively enroll in the study.
Throughout the fall 2020 semester, faculty members, staff and students present on campus have been required to routinely test for COVID-19 with a rapid saliva-based test developed by researchers at Illinois. Along with contact tracing, the frequent testing and quick results have allowed the campus and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District to identify positive cases and exposures before many are symptomatic, said study leader Christopher Brooke, a microbiology professor and virologist at Illinois.
“Because our testing program catches so many people early during their infection, the NIH felt that we were uniquely poised to answer some key outstanding questions about how to design effective testing strategies to control SARS-CoV-2,” Brooke said. “Participants in this study will have an opportunity to directly contribute to the fight against COVID-19 at the national level.”
Participants will receive a kit of testing supplies for saliva, nasal swab and antigen tests to use throughout their 14-day quarantine period. Each day, a clinical researcher will virtually guide each participant through the sample-collection process. A driver from the university’s Facilities and Services division will collect the samples daily and deliver them to the research team for analysis.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, Johns Hopkins University and Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana will partner with Illinois to analyze the samples using different methods, allowing for direct correlation of results.
“This research will fill some important knowledge gaps about SARS-CoV-2 testing and COVID-19 control. We still have so much to learn about this virus,” said epidemiology professor Rebecca L. Smith, one of the researchers conducting the study.
Quick detection of the virus and an understanding of when someone becomes infectious are essential for controlling the virus’s spread, and can guide development and deployment of tests, treatments and vaccines – not only for COVID-19, but for future viral pandemics, said Neal Cohen, the director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute at Illinois.
For more information, visit covid19innovations.research.illinois.edu/research-studies or email email@example.com.