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With new technology, Stanford launches COVID-19 study using a simple method: At-home tests

Researchers seek to estimate the virus' true prevalence

A Vera kit is made of up five items to help participants in a Stanford University School of Medicine self-administer a COVID-19 test with a nasal swab. Courtesy Stanford University School of Medicine.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have launched a new population study to track the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Bay Area.

The study, called the Community Alliance to Test Coronavirus at Home, or CATCH, would estimate the true population prevalence of the coronavirus by having people take a simple test at home, according to the study website. The project is led by Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and of health research and policy; Stanford's Quake Lab; and Lorene Nelson, associate professor of health research and policy.

The study uses a new technology called Vera, which was developed by Stanford University through a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, Microsoft and other organizations. Stanford also plans to offer Vera more broadly to insitutitions, schools, public health agencies and other groups to track the virus.

"The initial goal is to have thousands of people in the Bay Area order and collect their own specimens, then send them to labs that can perform the actual test," Maldonado said in a School of Medicine press release issued Sept. 30.

Unlike most nasal-swab tests performed at testing sites and medical facilities, individuals can swab the lower inside of their nose without having someone push the swab all the way up the nasal passage to the back of the throat.

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Prospective study participants take a five-minute online survey and report of the state of their health. Those who qualify place an order for a test kit shipped directly to their home usually within 24 hours and send their sample back for analysis. The tests are picked up by a medical courier after the participant marks on their online account that their sample is ready. The Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory oversees the testing and results, which are available in 48 hours on average, according to the study website.

The test is free to the selected participants and is open to anyone 5 years or older in the San Francisco Bay Area, whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 or not.

Participants in a new Stanford University School of Medicine study receive a test kit usually within 24 hours. Courtesy Stanford University School of Medicine.

The researchers hope to develop a better understanding of the differences between symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and learn how COVID-19 spreads within households and in communities.

The CATCH study is a pilot project, but the research team hopes to eventually have the program running across the country. Stanford wants to distribute the Vera technology platform broadly, which includes software for board testing and tracing COVID-19 cases and the swab test kits.

"Vera could help schools and universities boost on-campus testing, allowing for active monitoring of the students’ health and potentially helping administrators gauge when and if to reopen on-site learning," Nelson stated in the press release. The platform could allow for more streamlined surveillance and tracking of COVID-19 cases, saving health care workers time and preventing them from possible exposure and from having to use valuable personal protective equipment, according to the School of Medicine's press release.

The low-cost technology allows for affordable testing of large numbers of people in any group or organization. It could also help public health departments speed up testing and monitoring of vulnerable populations.

Stanford plans to make the technology available to academic institutions, public health departments, laboratory providers and other institutions under noncommercial terms.

Instructions show participants in a new Stanford University School of Medicine study how to take a nasal swab test. Courtesy Stanford University School of Medicine.

"Since the early days of this pandemic, Stanford has recognized how crucial testing is, and will continue to be, as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis," Dr. Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, said in the press release. "The Vera platform is a step forward in our goal to support widespread testing to individuals not just in our community, but throughout the country."

The platform can also address testing inequities by reaching underserved populations that are at greatest risk for the SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19, Vera program leader and CATCH study Director Patrick Arensdorf stated in the release.

"These individuals often work in essential occupations and have difficulty accessing health care facility-based testing. Vera provides them a convenient and rapid home-based testing option," he said.

To sign up for the CATCH pilot study and find more information, visit catchstudy.stanford.edu. Anyone without internet access can also join by calling 833-971-2468. Institutions interested in the technology can find more details at vera.stanford.edu.

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With new technology, Stanford launches COVID-19 study using a simple method: At-home tests

Researchers seek to estimate the virus' true prevalence

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 9, 2020, 9:42 am

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have launched a new population study to track the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Bay Area.

The study, called the Community Alliance to Test Coronavirus at Home, or CATCH, would estimate the true population prevalence of the coronavirus by having people take a simple test at home, according to the study website. The project is led by Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and of health research and policy; Stanford's Quake Lab; and Lorene Nelson, associate professor of health research and policy.

The study uses a new technology called Vera, which was developed by Stanford University through a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, Microsoft and other organizations. Stanford also plans to offer Vera more broadly to insitutitions, schools, public health agencies and other groups to track the virus.

"The initial goal is to have thousands of people in the Bay Area order and collect their own specimens, then send them to labs that can perform the actual test," Maldonado said in a School of Medicine press release issued Sept. 30.

Unlike most nasal-swab tests performed at testing sites and medical facilities, individuals can swab the lower inside of their nose without having someone push the swab all the way up the nasal passage to the back of the throat.

Prospective study participants take a five-minute online survey and report of the state of their health. Those who qualify place an order for a test kit shipped directly to their home usually within 24 hours and send their sample back for analysis. The tests are picked up by a medical courier after the participant marks on their online account that their sample is ready. The Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory oversees the testing and results, which are available in 48 hours on average, according to the study website.

The test is free to the selected participants and is open to anyone 5 years or older in the San Francisco Bay Area, whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 or not.

The researchers hope to develop a better understanding of the differences between symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and learn how COVID-19 spreads within households and in communities.

The CATCH study is a pilot project, but the research team hopes to eventually have the program running across the country. Stanford wants to distribute the Vera technology platform broadly, which includes software for board testing and tracing COVID-19 cases and the swab test kits.

"Vera could help schools and universities boost on-campus testing, allowing for active monitoring of the students’ health and potentially helping administrators gauge when and if to reopen on-site learning," Nelson stated in the press release. The platform could allow for more streamlined surveillance and tracking of COVID-19 cases, saving health care workers time and preventing them from possible exposure and from having to use valuable personal protective equipment, according to the School of Medicine's press release.

The low-cost technology allows for affordable testing of large numbers of people in any group or organization. It could also help public health departments speed up testing and monitoring of vulnerable populations.

Stanford plans to make the technology available to academic institutions, public health departments, laboratory providers and other institutions under noncommercial terms.

"Since the early days of this pandemic, Stanford has recognized how crucial testing is, and will continue to be, as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis," Dr. Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, said in the press release. "The Vera platform is a step forward in our goal to support widespread testing to individuals not just in our community, but throughout the country."

The platform can also address testing inequities by reaching underserved populations that are at greatest risk for the SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19, Vera program leader and CATCH study Director Patrick Arensdorf stated in the release.

"These individuals often work in essential occupations and have difficulty accessing health care facility-based testing. Vera provides them a convenient and rapid home-based testing option," he said.

To sign up for the CATCH pilot study and find more information, visit catchstudy.stanford.edu. Anyone without internet access can also join by calling 833-971-2468. Institutions interested in the technology can find more details at vera.stanford.edu.

Comments

Midlander
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 9, 2020 at 2:52 pm
Midlander, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2020 at 2:52 pm
9 people like this

This seems like a very useful project to get a better gauge on the rate of COVID-19 infection in the community, especially among asymptomatic individuals.

I signed up this afternoon. There were a few pages of questions to answer, but it was all quite straightforward. I have no symptoms. But I seem to have met their criteria for an asymptomatic random test, as they say they are sending me a test kit.


Art Liberman
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2020 at 8:44 am
Art Liberman, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2020 at 8:44 am
5 people like this

This will measure a sorely needed and so-far unknown piece of information: the prevalence of the disease in the population. If you are tested and you are positive, you rely on the test sensitivity, which is the probability the test is positive given you have Covid. This is NOT the same as the probability you have Covid given that the test is positive, and the two could be quite different if the prevalence is low. They are related through Bayes Theorem, and this requires knowing the prevalence of the disease in the population (and the specificity of the test, which is related to the false positive rate of the test).
I signed up on a PC - I had trouble with the sign up on my IPad. It wouldn't scroll down and allow me to fill in the information.


Midlander
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 12, 2020 at 9:17 am
Midlander, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 9:17 am
Like this comment

After I was notified that I had been selected for a test, everything happened quickly. The VERA test kit was delivered by a courier in about three hours. There were good written instructions (and also short online video clips) on the test steps. Doing the nasal swab was easy and painless. After sealing everything up (sealed bottle, sealed inner bag, sealed outer bag) I left it on my doorstep and a courier came by within an hour, picked it up and took it to the testing lab. The turnaround time from my registration to getting a completed kit back to the lab was under six hours, which is pretty good.

The lab result (Negative) came through in about 46 hours. (This was over a weekend, it might be quicker in mid-week.)

Your mileage may vary, but for me this was much, much easier than having to drive to a test center! I hope home testing like this becomes widely deployed.


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