KANNAPOLIS — The first round of testing as part of Duke Clinical & Translational Science Institute's MURDOCK COVID-19 Cabarrus County Prevalence and Immunity (C3PI) Study is underway at the North Carolina Research Campus.
As part of the study, researchers will track more than 1,300 volunteers and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them and their households for at least six months.
Three hundred of the volunteers in a sub-testing group will also undergo nasal swab collection for testing regularly to check for active infections and blood tests every few months to search for antibodies of the virus that indicate prior infection and could indicate immunity.
The MURDOCK Study is a longitudinal health study based in Kannapolis managed by the Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Dr. Kristin Newby is a cardiologist, the principal investigator of the MURDOCK study, and director of Duke CTSI Translational Population Health Research.
She is one of two leaders in the C3PI study, along with infectious disease specialist Dr. Chris Woods.
“We realize we’re a small component of a bigger picture, but whatever we can do to help the local area and the state get a handle on COVID-19 and what we need to do about it, I think we’re all super enthusiastic to be a part of that,” she said.
The C3PI study is being funded by North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 300 volunteers participating in testing have been going through a drive-thru testing lane over the last week, but from here on, they will be administering their own tests at home.
Doug Martin said he was happy to volunteer for the sub-testing group of the study. Officials noted that sign-ups are still available for those in the MURDOCK study who would like to fill out surveys to track how COVID-19 is affecting them. Those who fill out the survey won’t be physically tested, but they can still participate.
But Martin saw this opportunity as a way to help out when others might not have that kind of chance.
“I know scientists need data in order to make improvements and everything,” he said. “And I am proud to be part of something like (this).”
The study is a longitudinal observational study, which means it is following people over time. It is being undertaken across the state, from Kannapolis to East Carolina in Greenville.
The demographics have been carefully selected to give the state a clear understanding of who the virus affects and how it affects them in real-time and in the long-term.
The study will last for at least six months but could extend longer if needed. The proposal has already been peer-reviewed by both a “Steering Committee” as well as the state, and once the research is finished, it will be peer-reviewed again.
Duke CTSI plans to publish a report on this, which will be peer-reviewed by medical journals where experts in the field will look at the results and summary presented by the study.
“I think it’s good not only for the health and future health, hopefully, of the community, but also the ‘esprit de corps’ or morale of the community as well,” Newby said. “I think it’s super important, and it’s very exciting.”
Ann Ashworth is another of the 300 people participating in the sub-testing group. She is in the high-risk category for the virus and has already seen major changes to her lifestyle since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
She was working part time as a cashier at CVS before the pandemic hit, but she had to leave that job in April. She lives at her daughter and son-in-law’s home with her two grandchildren, and she felt like she was putting them in danger by continuing to work.
So she decided to leave. Since then, she has stayed home while having groceries delivered and wearing a mask and washing her hands anytime she has to go anywhere.
She isn’t one to let that get her down, though. She volunteered for the study, but she has also been making masks for others in her free time.
Joining the study is just another way for her to help. “To me, it’s my little part that I can do,” she said. “When I retired (in) 2012, I wanted to join the Peace Corps because I felt the need to do something. Unfortunately, my husband became ill, and I became his caregiver for a long time until last month, when he passed away. This gives me a chance to do something.”