Officials said the study will seek to detect active coronavirus cases, evidence of previous infections, and changes in the rates of both in a representative group of 10,000 Brigham patients consistent with the demographics of Greater Boston.
Over the course of six months, the statement said, study participants will get monthly at-home kits for viral and anti-body testing. They’ll also complete routine symptom surveys and will be able to seek additional testing should they develop symptoms, officials said.
Ongoing study results, the statement said, could reveal “critical clues” and warning signs about how COVID-19 cases are changing in the Boston area, while also helping researchers set up a model for at-home sample collection that’s “integrated” within a medical and public health system.
In addition, the study will help clinicians learn more about whether prior infection protects someone from future reinfection, according to the statement.
TestBoston will be led by Dr. Ann Woolley and Dr. Lisa Cosimi, infectious disease physicians at Brigham and Women’s, and Dr. Deborah Hung, a codirector of the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program of the Broad Institute and an infectious disease and critical care physician at the Brigham.
Current and former Brigham patients who’d like to participate in the study can enroll online.
“With ongoing limits on testing availability, we still face serious challenges to our understanding of how many people in Massachusetts have been infected and to our ability to detect new outbreaks, which is made all the more challenging because we know that asymptomatic people can transmit this virus to others,” Woolley said in the statement.
Cosimi said the purpose of the study is to “provide at-home testing that pairs viral testing for active virus with antibody testing to give us a clearer picture of COVID-19 rates now and over time in different communities, as well as an understanding of who is getting infected. We believe that this strategy of reaching patients at home is critical to being able to reach meaningful numbers of patients in order to have real impact.”
TestBoston, the statement said, will invite participation from patients who’ve been seen at any Brigham site within the past year if they live within a 45-mile radius of Boston. Study materials, officials said, will be available in eight languages.
The Broad and the Brigham will review all findings in real time and share them with key stakeholders, including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, to assist authorities in responding to new infections, the statement said.
Samples collected by TestBoston participants at home will be picked up and returned overnight to the Broad for analysis, officials said.
“TestBoston holds the promise of giving us real time data on how rates of COVID-19 in the Boston area are changing over time,” said Dr. Betsy Nabel, president of the Brigham, in a statement. “This will inform public health efforts and enable us to provide the best possible care to all patients.”
Hung, of the Broad and the Brigham, also lauded the aims of the study.
“While it is impossible to fully understand a pandemic when one is in the midst of it, integrating clinical, research and public health efforts, as is the goal of TestBoston, is critical for learning in real- time how we can offer patients the best possible care and informing how we can overcome some of the inequities that currently exist, such as access to testing,” Hung said in the statement.