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Emory, Curry College researchers examine role of COVID-19 antibodies on reinfection

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Catherine Morrow

Public health researchers from Curry College in Massachusetts have partnered with Emory University to conduct a new study on Curry’s campus to examine the role of antibodies and virus infection in the college community.

Beginning Monday, Feb. 15, hundreds of Curry faculty, staff and students volunteered to contribute to the new research, which will allow epidemiologists from Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health to better understand how COVID-19 may spread on a residential campus and which antibodies protect from infection or reinfection.

“We could not be prouder to team with Emory’s expert researchers on this important study,” says David Szczerbacki, PhD, executive vice president and provost at Curry College. “The partnership presents a unique opportunity for our campus community to play a meaningful part in expanding our knowledge of COVID-19 and ultimately helping to gain control of this tragic pandemic.” 

The partnership comes at a critical time as the pandemic surpasses its one-year mark since COVID-19 was detected in the United States. Since then, a growing proportion of the U.S. population has been previously infected with the virus. Medical experts theorize that prior infection and the presence of COVID-19 antibodies convey some degree of immunity to reinfection, though little is still known.

Emory’s researchers believe a better understanding of the COVID-19 immune response and disease transmission on a college campus is critical for control strategies.  

“We are excited to partner with Curry College to look at the durability and protective nature of natural antibodies, and hopefully antibodies from vaccination, in a residential college setting,” says Jodie Guest, PhD, vice chair of the department of epidemiology at Emory’s school of public health and co-principal investigator on the study. “We hope to use the data to help schools and universities mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 as they adapt to these new learning environment challenges.”

“A growing proportion of the U.S. population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and while it is hypothesized that antibodies from prior infection convey some degree of immunity to reinfection, this has not been well studied.” says Patrick Sullivan, PhD, Charles Howard Candler professor of epidemiology at Emory and co-principal investigator.

Conducted on the Curry College campus, the study will require participants to contribute a small blood sample in February and May to allow Emory’s public health experts to monitor for the presence of antibodies and their relationship to any positive COVID-19 cases this spring. The study is one of the first to focus on a residential living environment and could help inform practices for disease control in the future for both college campuses and senior living communities.

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