Worldwide team of researchers partners with Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.
Engineering Science DPhil Rahul Arora, a student in Professor David Clifton's group, is leading the development of SeroTracker - a knowledge hub that tracks and synthesizes findings from SARS-CoV-2 antibody studies worldwide.
As the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic passes its peak, many countries, including Canada, are investing in serological (antibody) testing. Researchers at Oxford, US and Canadian universities are partnering with Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, which will support the administration of 1 million tests for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies over the next two years.
SeroTracker, which officially launched on 27 May, has been rapidly set up to respond to the Task Force’s need for global serological (antibody) testing data. Rahul says, “Serological testing will likely play an important role in policy decisions, and in turn economic recovery. We built SeroTracker to help public health officials in all countries develop evidence-based exit strategies from this pandemic”. The SeroTracker interactive dashboard (pictured) captures and visualizes new antibody test results from across the world each day.
The SeroTracker collaboration is an interdisciplinary group of 20 Canadian researchers, data scientists, and economists. It includes doctoral, medical, and undergraduate students at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, University of Calgary, McGill University, University of Oxford, and Harvard University. “This initiative spans across three Oxford divisions and several departments”, Rahul says. “Nik Bobrovitz, an Honorary Fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, leads our research team, while McGill’s Professor Tim Evans, the Task Force’s Executive Director, holds an Oxford DPhil in Agricultural Economics.”
Their recent systematic review of COVID-19 serological studies worldwide ('Lessons from a rapid systematic review of early SARS-CoV-2 serosurveys'), available on MedRXIV, suggests that the urgency to examine seroprevalence during the pandemic may have compromised methodological rigour, and describes opportunities for future testing initiatives to improve study design, test quality, and coordination.
The team’s research surrounding population antibody patterns and potential immunity has already been of interest to policymakers and national media, and has potential to inform the development of population serosurveillance (antibody testing) programs worldwide.