Health & Wellness Science & Technology

UGA leads study on COVID-19 post-infection immunity

Ted Ross is director of UGA's Center for Vaccines and Immunology. (Photo by Billy Howard)

The research will determine what protection the body develops after infection

A key question surrounding COVID-19 is if people who have had the virus gain some degree of long-term immunity. Ted Ross is leading a nationwide study to examine this pressing question. Ross is director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology and professor of infectious diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“The body’s response to every infection is unique,” explained Ross. “In this study, we hope to determine how the body fights this novel virus and what, if any, protection the body develops following infection.”

The team also hopes to examine immunological, demographic and medical risk factors and the part they play in recovery and infection outcome. Using blood draws and saliva samples, the researchers will monitor participants over the course of 24 months. The project, called SPARTA (SARS SeroPrevalence and Respiratory Tract Assessment), is funded by the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Cancer Institute.

In Athens and Augusta, Georgia, the study will establish and follow participants at higher risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including local health care and emergency services providers, as well as faculty, staff and students at UGA. The group will total about 3,000 participants between 18 and 85 years of age and at least 50% of the participants will be members of minority populations, which have been impacted by COVID-19 at a higher rate than other groups.

UGA will participate with other teams of investigators from universities and health care providers around the country including Augusta University Medical Center, Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, University of Chicago, University of Miami, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of California at Los Angeles – Harbor Medical Center, Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

The list is expected to grow as more institutions join the project. The data collected from these locations will be aggregated and compared for a nationwide view of immunity and recovery from COVID-19.