OSU, first responders team up for COVID-19 study

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A team of doctors and researchers from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are in the early stages of a long-term study into the impact of COVID-19 on first responders.

The five-year study is being funded by a $10 million grant from the National Cancer Institute in the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will pay for the Center for Serological Testing to Improve Outcomes from Pandemic COVID-19 (STOP-COVID) at Ohio State. 

“The Center to STOP-COVID will address some of the biggest questions in the field, such as ‘Can people be re-infected with COVID-19 once positive? Why are some people more at risk for being infected and symptomatic? Does infection with closely related viruses provide immunity or worsen COVID-19 disease outcomes?’ This whole scientific platform is based directly on the data our researchers collected during the earliest days of the pandemic, in March and early April,” said Peter Mohler, chief scientific officer for Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice dean for research for the Ohio State College of Medicine.

Researchers plan to follow approximately 2,000 participants over the five-year period, some of whom have tested positive for COVID-19 and others who have not. They also plan on enrolling family members who live in the same households as first responders in the study.

“That allows us to address really important questions about how the virus is transmitted, how that might relate to household practices, [and] how it’s transmitted not just from symptomatic individuals, but also asymptomatic individuals,” said Dr. Eugene Oltz, chair of the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity at OSU’s College of Medicine. “It will also allow us to look at factors that contribute to protection, immunity from the virus, as well as factors that contribute to disease severity.”

Oltz said the team of researchers is focusing on first responders and their families because those individuals are at high risk for exposure to COVID-19, but he said their findings will benefit the greater population.

“It will guide best practices for vaccine development, for mitigation practices [and] for protective practices,” he said. “It will answer basic questions about whether, if you are exposed to coronavirus, are you protected, and if so, for how long.”

The Center for STOP-COVID has partnered with the Columbus Division of Police and the Columbus Division of Fire to complete this research.

Oltz said the first steps of the research will include enrolling first responders in the program. He expects to first samples to be collected within the next month or so.

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