Recovered from COVID? Help this study
If you’ve had the misfortune of contracting COVID-19 but have made a full recovery, the National Institute on Aging needs your help.
A study is under way to learn more about how the body’s immune cells respond to infection of SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Because the virus is new, or novel, “the human population doesn’t have pre-existing immunity” to it, said Dr. Nan-ping Weng, the study’s principal investigator.
But those who recover from the disease may be the only people who may have some protection against a new infection thanks to the way their body’s immune system responded to the virus.
“They [may] become more ready to fight the virus next time,” Weng said. “We want to find out what these immune cells are and how long the protection can last.”
Up to three visits, paid
Maryland residents over 18 years old who have tested positive for the virus are eligible for the study.
Once enrolled, participants will visit MedStar Harbor Hospital on South Hanover Street in Baltimore to give samples of blood, urine and saliva. They’ll also fill out a medical history questionnaire about their COVID-19 symptoms. The in-person visit will last about an hour.
Then participants can choose to return two more times — four months later and a year later — so researchers can track changes in their samples. Parking is free, and compensation will be provided ($60 per visit).
Weng’s research at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging focuses on the immune system.
“Our study is trying to characterize what kinds of cells are protecting these people,” Weng said. “We’re trying to understand the body’s immune system, whether they can have a lasting [defense against the virus].”
Weng’s team studies lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell in the lymphatic system.
Younger people typically have more lymphocytes in their blood than older people do, Weng pointed out.
According to the CDC, “Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.”
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how the virus has such a devastating impact on older adults, however. By studying the lymphocytes of people who have recovered from the disease, Weng’s team might be able to learn more.
“We want to know why COVID has a more severe impact on older people,” Weng said.
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