Fred Hutch studies immune response to COVID-19, needs participants

SEATTLE — The Seattle COVID Cohort study is being led by Dr. Julie McElrath, director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch.

“The information and the science is very exciting, but what’s most important is to really convert this to an infection that we can quickly control,” Dr. McElrathsaid.

She is looking for volunteers who have had the coronavirus, think they have had the virus, or who think they have been exposed to it. McElrath is especially interested in studying first responders, health care workers and people who have been exposed by family members or friends who are sick with COVID-19.

Researchers have a tent set up in a loading dock at Fred Hutch to interview and test participants. Each participant has a 45 -minute interview and informational meeting. Subjects will have a nasal swab to confirm an infection, and blood test to check for antibodies.

“We’re looking to see if those antibodies can function well to neutralize the virus, and what is the strength of that response, the potency of that response,” McElrath said.

Studying the body’s natural response will allow researchers to compare it to the response from someone who receives a vaccine.

The study doesn’t end there, however, McElrath said.

”We’re going into a deep dive into the immune response to see how genes turn on and off when an individual has the virus, and how can those genes together produce a signature that would let us know (if) this person is going to do well with the infection or maybe not do as well,” she explained.

McElrath is one of many local researchers who has switched gears to focus on COVID-19. She’s a global leader in the study of prevention and control of HIV. She said what has been learned about HIV is invaluable in the fight against the coronavirus.

There are still so many unknowns, including how long antibodies stay in the blood, and if it is possible for a patient to get COVID-19 more than once. Researchers hope to monitor participants in the study for a couple of years to see how the virus and antibodies evolve.

Fred Hutch is looking for participants. Click here for the link to learn more information and sign up.