Q&A: Researchers hope new COVID-19 cohort study will be a ‘game changer’
Investigators recently launched the CHASING COVID Cohort study to help physicians and policymakers understand the impact of our public health response to the pandemic on clinical outcomes, and to prepare for future health crises.
Specifically, the CHASING COVID study will gather definitive evidence about whether antibodies are protective against reinfection.
“There is a critical need to investigate and characterize the evolving epidemiology of any deadly pandemic caused by a novel pathogen,” Denis Nash, PhD, MPH, told Healio Primary Care.
Nash, the executive director of the City University of New York Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health, discussed why the study is necessary, what information researchers hope to obtain, how the study could steer future pandemic responses and how the study benefits the medical community. – by Janel Miller
Q: Why did you launch this study?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed life around the world and across the U.S. The public health and medical responses are unprecedented. There are also medical and economic challenges that greatly threaten the well-being of individuals, households and communities. The pandemic may go on for quite some time and its effects will be felt for years, if not decades. The more we learn about this pandemic and our response to it, the more we will be prepared for the next one.
Q: What specific information are you gathering? Who are you gathering it from?
A: We enrolled a geographically and sociodemographically diverse cohort of more than 7,000 individuals from around the United States. They complete questionnaires every month that capture a variety of data, including household size, age of household members, employment status, recent and significant loss of income, occupation and job responsibilities (eg, if they care for COVID patients or are another type of essential worker), history of COVID-like symptoms, hospitalization for COVID-like symptoms, results of SARS-CoV-2, pre-existing health conditions, mental health status, social support, and willingness to donate plasma. Participants also mail us their self-collected dried blood spot specimens at month 1 and month 3. We will follow these individuals for at least 6 months. If we obtain funding for the study to continue, we will follow them longer.
Q: What questions do you hope to answer with the data gathered from the participants in the study?
A: The most important questions that we hope to answer include:
- Who is most at risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-like illness?
- Who is most affected by SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-like illness?
- What is the impact of implementing (and lifting) different nonpharmaceutical interventions such as physical distancing on SARS-CoV-2 outcomes such as the incidence, seroconversion, prevalence, history of COVID-19, COVID hospitalization and death from SARS-CoV-2?
- What are the psychosocial and economic impacts of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on participants?
- What proportion of those with incident SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic?
- What short- or long-term protection against reinfection and/or development of severe COVID do those who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection have?
Q: How will this study help us prepare for the fall, as well as future pandemics?
A: This pandemic is a public health and societal crisis that requires all of us to do our part to get through it. This will also be true for future waves of this pandemic as well as the next pandemic.
The CHASING COVID Cohort study is well positioned to provide insights about what components of the public health response work and how well they worked to control the pandemic. The study goes beyond snapshots of what is currently happening (such as one-time serologic surveys) and characterizes what happens over time in a rapidly evolving situation.
We are also able to rapidly gather definitive evidence about whether antibodies are protective. This information would be a game changer for public health response and provide evidence regarding physical distancing restrictions and reopening society. This kind of scientific evidence can only be gathered in the middle of an outbreak while transmission is ongoing.
Q: How can primary care providers use these data?
A: It is always important for providers to have a window into the larger context of a public health crisis. This includes co-occurring factors that are affecting their patients, such as mental health and insights about major risk factors for the infection and the development of disease. Our study will also provide data on asymptomatic infections and show whether patients with positive antibodies can be infected again. All this information will help providers interpret the results of diagnostic tests, counsel patients and answer their questions.
Disclosure: Nash reports no relevant financial disclosures.