COVID Innovation Fund Award: COVID-19 Risk Factors And Immune Response In Healthcare Workers

Principal Investigator: Elena Hsieh, M.D., University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus and Children’s Hospital of Colorado

Medical Context

Due to the essential nature of their duties, it is impossible for healthcare workers (HCW) to participate in social distancing and self-isolation. The rapidly evolving course of this pandemic has left public health experts blind regarding best practices for ensuring the safety of HCW and the sustainability of the invaluable public resource that they represent. Relevant knowledge gaps in epidemiology and immunology of SARS2-CoV-2 infection among HCWs include 1) the true frequency of asymptomatic virologic conversion from non-infectious to infectious; 2) the kinetics (onset and pace) at which the body produces a protective immune response to COVID-19 infection); and 3) risk factors associated with an ineffective immune response, leading to more severe disease.

Research Proposal

Dr. Hsieh’s research program will collect evidence to close these gaps by identifying factors that put a hospital-based workforce at risk for infection, inadequate immune response, severe disease, and poor outcomes. Her group will conduct a prospective, longitudinal study of HCW at University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) and Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHOC). Data will be collected at specific timepoints over 12 months and will include demographic (age, race, job title/employment setting), clinical (co-morbidities, COVID-related hospitalizations),  immunological (seroconversion rates and viral PCR positivity, quality and quantity of adaptive immune response), and subject-reported data regarding exposure and symptoms. Analyzed together, these data will provide critical correlations between demographic, clinical, and immunological findings, which will provide a framework for additional studies to further understand risk (and protective) factors for severe disease. To this end, this research program will also populate a biobank of well-characterized samples that can be extended to accommodate additional nested research projects in the future.