As COVID-19 testing has gradually increased in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled on Monday a coronavirus study set to start in June or July that will examine up to 325,000 people in 25 cities over the next 18 months.
The study will examine antibodies created by the immune system when it battles coronavirus. Researchers aim to understand how COVID-19 antibodies evolve over time, the best ways to restrict the virus’s spread, its likeliest outbreak sources and the body’s overall immune responses to the disease.
Each month for 12 months, the study will examine blood from 1,000 donors in 25 metro areas. Then, at 18 months, researchers will test blood from another 25,000 donors. The samples will be taken from “regular, altruistic” blood donors, according to Dr. Michael Busch, director of the nonprofit Vitalant Research Institute, which is leading a preliminary version of the study, according to Reuters.
Researchers want to publish results on a continuous basis so that others can consider and build on their findings.
The preliminary study involves Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle and its next phase will likely add Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Miami, New Orleans and St. Louis. All sites have been chosen to provide a “broad geographical distribution” throughout the U.S., and could be incorporated into the CDC’s study too.
Nationwide coronavirus testing is expanding. COVID-19 testing during the first week of May averaged nearly 300,000 a day, almost double the number of tests conducted in early April, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Epidemiologists agree that widespread testing combined with contact tracking would let health officials quickly identify and isolate newly infected patients while alerting others they may have come into contact with. Aggressive implementation of this strategy helped South Korea and Germany curb the virus’s spread.
However, social policy thinkers disagree about how much national testing is necessary to begin easing social distancing measures.
The Washington D.C.-based social policy think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), set a target minimum of 110,000 tests a day and a more ambitious goal of 500,000 a day to help maintain control over outbreaks once there are no more regional outbreaks, a goal the U.S. is still a long way from.
Alternately, the Safra Center for Ethics in Harvard University says the U.S. needs at least 1 million tests a day before it can confidently end social distancing measures, an effort it estimates could cost anywhere from $30 billion to $500 billion.
Newsweek reached out to CDC for further information. This story will be updated with any response.