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Wits needs 300 volunteers for COVID-19 rapid test study

- Wits University

Have you tested positive for coronavirus or been near someone who has? If so, your country urgently needs you for a South African COVID-19 rapid test study.

This study, led by the Wits Department of Immunology, aims to ensure that existing rapid tests for COVID-19 are accurate.

Research being undertaken in laboratory

Qualifying volunteers will need to submit blood and saliva samples for serological testing for COVID-19. This includes the rapid antibody tests and the formal serology assays. [An assay is a laboratory procedure to measure quantities].

Serological tests measure the amount of antibodies or proteins present in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection (such as COVID-19).

Antibody tests check for the small molecules that the body produces to fight infection. These antibodies are very specific to particular infections and form the basis of serology testing for many infectious diseases.

Why this study is important 

South Africa urgently needs to increase testing for COVID-19 so that infection can be identified, traced, isolated and contained. Although a number of rapid diagnosis tests are already available in South Africa, they are not consistently reliable. Inaccurate test results could lead people to believe they do not have the coronavirus, so they don’t self-isolate and then inadvertently infect others.

“Although there are rapid diagnostic tests available that can test for antibodies in the blood and deliver a result within minutes, these tests have not performed consistently well,” says Professor Elizabeth Mayne, Head of the Division of Immunology at Wits and Principal Investigator for this study.

Associate Prof. Elizabeth Mayne is Head of Immunology at Wits and calls for volunteers for a COVID19 rapid test trial

“To check that the various rapid tests being brought into South Africa work, we need blood and saliva samples from 300 people who tested positive for coronavirus, or who were in close contact with someone who tested positive".

The role of volunteers

On volunteering for the study, you will be briefed fully and will have the opportunity to ask questions.

You will be asked questions about your age, any underlying conditions you might have, such as high blood pressure and chronic lung diseases, any medications being taken, when you tested positive, your travel history and whether or not you had any symptoms.

A nurse will be dispatched to your home. The nurse, wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), will extract around eight teaspoons of blood from you, as well as some saliva and some mouth/throat swabs.

These bio-samples of your blood and saliva will be used to create banks of known positive and negative controls, which scientists around the country can use to quickly and accurately evaluate any rapid or serological tests.  

About the study

The study is approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee at Wits University.

A minimum of 300 participants are required for the study.

The study is ongoing, so participants can volunteer at any time.

Participation is entirely voluntary and participants can withdraw consent at any time without giving a reason. Such withdrawal will have no effect on participants' diagnosis or treatment.

Participants will not be paid or in any way be financially remunerated for participating.

Participants will not be able to get the results of their tests.

How to volunteer

If you meet the criteria and wish to participate please email or call 082 337 6349 for a comprehensive briefing and enrolment. 

About the Principal Investigator

Professor Elizabeth Mayne holds an MBBCh and MMED in haematology from Wits University. She is a specialist haematopathologist has since 2018 been Head of Immunology in the School of Pathology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits. She is collaborating with Professor Wendy Stevens and Professor Ian Sanne on this project.