WINDSOR, ON, April 1, 2021 /CNW/ - University of Windsor researchers have launched a pilot project to detect COVID-19 rapidly in populations with no reported symptoms. Participants in the Covid Screening Platform study will have their saliva tested weekly, and will get results via a cellphone app called MyCap.
Phase one of the three-phase campus COVID screening program started on March 9, for individuals working in the Faculty of Science's Essex Centre of Research (CORe) building.
"This will be critical for the rapid response and virus surveillance," says lead researcher and biomedical sciences professor Lisa Porter.
"We're using a low-cost, rapid PCR test, which was developed by chemistry and biochemistry's Yufeng Tong as part of a WE-Spark Health Institute seed grant; this test has a very low number of false positives, similar to that of public health, and results can be achieved in 45 minutes."
Dr. Porter says recent reports show that virus detected in the saliva can be infectious, even in asymptomatic individuals, so we need ways to detect positive individuals in order to prevent outbreaks.
Researchers will pool samples and test participants' saliva in groups to decrease costs and time, factors needed for increasing the number of individuals being screened. If one person tests positive, everyone in their group is notified on MyCap and is called back for individual testing.
"With studies suggesting that up to 45 per cent of COVID positive people are asymptomatic and possibly contagious for 12.3 days before symptoms arise, it is important that we are proactive to ensure the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty as we return to campus," says Chris Houser, dean of science.
Test sites will be monitored by technicians who guide participants through the procedure. Each week, volunteers collect their own saliva, which is then transported to the third floor of CORe for processing.
"In phase two we'll expand the number of volunteers to include varsity athletes and students at St. Clair College, and by September 2021 we hope to build up the capacity and a workflow to test every single person who comes on the campuses of UWindsor and St. Clair College and report the testing results in the same day," says Porter.
The screening program is developing a dashboard that will also link to the wastewater database of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER), which investigates COVID-19 trends in the local population and identifies prevalent strains. Recently, the UWindsor wastewater surveillance program identified asymptomatic COVID-19 infection amongst students in a University residence hall likely pre-empting a residence-wide outbreak.
"Director of GLIER, Mike McKay, is leading wastewater COVID testing, which is a great resource to identify any new variants of COVID that are surfacing in our population. We can modify our tests' primers and screen for that particular variant," Porter says.
The cross-discipline study brings together staff, faculty, and students from the Department of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Computer Science, GLIER, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Psychology, WE-Spark Health Institute, St. Clair College, and Markham-based industry partner Single Molecule Research Inc.
SOURCE University of Windsor
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