A study from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is aiming to see how many people have contracted the virus by looking for antibodies in their blood, which might indicate a previous infection.
“In this ‘serosurvey,’ researchers will collect and analyze blood samples from as many as 10,000 volunteers to provide critical data for epidemiological models,” the NIH wrote in a news release this week. “The results will help illuminate the extent to which the novel coronavirus has spread undetected in the United States and provide insights into which communities and populations are most affected.”
The agency said participants in the study can live anywhere in the country, be over the age of 18, and not have a confirmed case of COVID-19. These people also cannot be experiencing any telltale symptoms of the virus such as a dry cough, sneezing, shortness of breath, or a fever.
“This study will give us a clearer picture of the true magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States by telling us how many people in different communities have been infected without knowing it, because they had a very mild, undocumented illness or did not access testing while they were sick,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the NIH, in a statement. “These crucial data will help us measure the impact of our public health efforts now and guide our COVID-19 response moving forward.”
In the study, investigators will test blood samples for the presence of antibodies associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, a type of novel coronavirus also known as SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease COVID-19.
According to the news release, a positive test will indicate a previous infection. So far, to confirm a COVID-19 infection, health officials have to use a cotton swab of a person’s airways and relied on molecular tests.
“An antibody test is looking back into the immune system’s history with a rearview mirror,” said Dr. Matthew J. Memoli, an author of the study who works with the NIH, in a statement. “By analyzing an individual’s blood, we can determine if that person has encountered SARS-CoV-2 previously.”
After study participants enroll, they will attend a “virtual clinic visit” and will complete a questionnaire that includes details about their ethnicity, race, age, race, and occupation.
“Participants working at the NIH Bethesda campus will have blood drawn at the NIH Clinical Center. Other volunteers will participate in at-home blood sampling. Neoteryx, a medical device firm based in Torrance, California, will supply at-home blood collection kits,” according to the release.