As the country moves into its second year of the COVID‑19 pandemic, many researchers are studying its impacts on first responders, a unique population because of their risk of exposure and re-exposure on the job. First responders were also among the first to receive COVID‑19 vaccines.
In addition to the Department of Homeland Security's research study on the impact of COVID‑19 on public safety, another research initiative underway comes from the Center for Serological Testing to Improve Outcomes from Pandemic COVID‑19 (STOP‑COVID). In partnership with the Columbus (Ohio) Division of Fire and the Columbus Police Department, the STOP-COVID Center will enroll EMS workers and their families in a 5-year clinical trial. The STOP-COVID researchers are working on 3 projects:
- Studying blood serum and the response of the immune system to pathogens (serological sciences).
- Communication about testing and vaccines.
For the surveillance portion of the study, participating first responders complete short weekly and monthly surveys for the STOP‑COVID Center to gather information on their health and their experiences with COVID‑19. This helps researchers investigate how transmission may occur in their households and stations, interactions between exposure risks, immune responses, disease severity, and any barriers encountered to testing or vaccination.
For the clinical part of this study, asymptomatic first responders are regularly tested for the COVID‑19 virus and antibodies using serological and molecular tests developed at The Ohio State University. Once this data is collected, the second part of the study will examine factors linked to immune protection.
The $10 million STOP‑COVID research project is funded by the National Cancer Institute. Researchers from Ohio State and the Wexner Medical Center are working on the project.
The STOP‑COVID Center will be integrated with the National Cancer Institute's Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet), which consists of 8 national centers and 10 other projects studying different aspects of COVID‑19. These centers will develop a framework for sharing data, samples and investigative procedures with each other and, eventually, with outside entities who want to use the work for their own research.
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