New ISPH Project Will Use Next-Gen at-Home Rapid Test to Track COVID-19, RSV, and Flu

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CUNY ISPH to launch next phase of community-based cohort study to track short- and long-term effects of multiple respiratory viruses  

The City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) and the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), in collaboration with Pfizer, are initiating a critical two-year prospective epidemiologic study in the spring of 2024 to track acute respiratory infections across the United States.

Project PROTECTS (Prospective Respiratory Outcomes from Tracking and Evaluating Community-based TeSting) builds on the pivotal CHASING COVID Cohort Study, which has monitored SARS-CoV-2 infection rates and associated risk factors through questionnaires and at-home serological testing since March 2020. The cohort’s participants have shown remarkable commitment, with the study recently concluding its 22nd questionnaire and fourth round of serological testing. “The sustained engagement of CHASING COVID Cohort Study participants has made the cohort one of the most enduring and thorough community-based studies of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and represents an invaluable resource for ongoing scientific inquiry,” says CUNY SPH Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology Denis Nash, who is also the principal investigator of the study.

This new project will harness both at-home rapid and PCR tests to investigate the incidence and symptom severity of several major respiratory viruses (SARS-CoV-2, RSV, influenza A, and influenza B), and characterize the performance of a new at-home multi-pathogen rapid test. “The study will address significant gaps in our understanding of the prolonged effects of these viruses on daily life, in the context of existing vaccines, background immunity, and treatments,” says Nash. The study will use a single rapid test for four different viruses that is currently in the research pipeline and not yet available to providers or patients.

To achieve study aims, Project PROTECTS aims to enroll up to 6,000 participants, starting with individuals who were engaged in the CHASING COVID cohort. Participants will complete quarterly questionnaires on existing symptoms, health status, quality of life, occupational activities, vaccination history, past respiratory illnesses, and healthcare utilization using a study-specific web platform and mobile app.

When participants exhibit symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, they will self-administer the multi-pathogen rapid test designed to test for all four respiratory viruses. It is administered in the same way as at-home SARS-CoV-2 tests. However, it simultaneously tests for SARS-CoV-2, RSV, influenza A, and influenza BThose who test positive for one or more pathogens will complete questionnaires over the ensuing six months, with additional measures detailing symptoms, healthcare engagements and treatments, and new clinical diagnoses.

“The findings are expected to be pivotal in shaping future public health strategies and interventions to mitigate the impact of severe respiratory viruses on population health outcomes,” says Nash.

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