by Photo courtesy of UC San Diego

Researchers at UC San Diego Health seek to assess a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19 in a new study that hopes to analyze levels of COVID-19 antibodies among the campus population.

All UC San Diego students, staff, faculty, and employees may participate in the "ZAP COVID-19 Study" (NeutraliZing Antibody Project for COVID-19). Assistant professor at UC San Diego and Principal Investigator of the ZAP COVID-19 program, Marni Jacobs said it comes after feedback from the university's leadership that highlighted the need to understand how well the campus population is protected against COVID-19. 

“It's an internal effort with a lot of enthusiasm from the leadership at UC San Diego, which allowed this study to get pushed forward,” Jacobs said. 

UC San Diego students and staff ages 18 and older will have the chance to participate in the voluntary study when they take their school-required COVID-19 self-test. Participants may provide a blood sample through a small finger prick.

According to Jacobs, there have been a little over 500 participants since the study's launch in early January. Researchers are looking for at least 20,000 people to join the study. There are over 70,000 eligible people at the university, and of that, 40,000 are students, and over 35,000 are employees. 

Researchers aim to learn how antibody levels wane over time and if they still offer protection as time goes on by comparing the levels of neutralizing antibodies present in the blood samples with their corresponding vaccine or prior infection status. Findings from this study may help in developing recommendations for vaccine boosters, as well as determining whether measurement of antibodies can be used to assess an individual’s risk of catching COVID-19.

“The goal for everybody when we're in public health is to try to get things as back to normal as possible. We would love to get people back on campus, and hope to use this information to inform public health policy to see how we can safely reopen the campus. We have been good at trying to keep people safe, and this is just another mechanism for doing that,” Jacobs said. 

According to Jacobs, the study could go on for two years, and until then, researchers will continue collecting samples. Researchers will consider recontacting people to get longitudinal samples over two years for updates on antibody levels. 

Researchers hope to begin analyzing samples this summer and obtain some results by the end of this year. 

“We'd always like to get things out sooner, but it depends. We want to make sure that we have a really big cross-section of the university and we're providing the kind of the best data possible for everybody before we start releasing results,” Jacobs said.  

This is the first time UC San Diego offered a widespread study like this specifically to the university’s population and of this size, according to Jacobs. Most of the studies performed at the university are for the public and patients. 

“We're excited about this,” Jacobs said. “We're just really appreciative of everybody's interest, enthusiasm, and willingness to participate.” 

Click here to learn more about the study or sign up to participate.

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