CUNY ISPH to launch next phase of community-based cohort study to track short- and long-term effects of multiple respiratory viruses

The City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) and the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), in collaboration with Pfizer, are initiating a critical two-year prospective epidemiologic study in the spring of 2024 to track acute respiratory infections across the United States.

Project PROTECTS (Prospective Respiratory Outcomes from Tracking and Evaluating Community-based TeSting) builds on the CHASING COVID Cohort Study, which has monitored SARS-CoV-2 infection rates and associated risk factors through questionnaires and at-home serological testing since March 2020.  The cohort’s participants have shown remarkable commitment, with the study recently concluding its 22nd questionnaire and fourth round of serological testing.  “The sustained engagement of the CHASING COVID Cohort Study participants has made the cohort one of the most enduring and thorough community-based studies of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and represents an invaluable resource for ongoing scientific inquiry,” says Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and ISPH Executive Director and Denis Nash, who is also the principal investigator of the study.

This new project will harness both at-home rapid antigen and PCR tests to investigate the incidence and symptom severity of several major respiratory viruses (SARS-CoV-2, RSV, influenza A, and influenza B). “The study will address significant gaps in our understanding of the prolonged effects of these viruses on daily life, in the context of existing vaccines, background immunity, and treatments,” says Nash.

To achieve the study aims, Project PROTECTS will enroll up to 6,000 participants, starting with individuals who were engaged in the CHASING COVID cohort.  Participants will complete quarterly questionnaires on existing symptoms, health status, quality of life, occupational activities, vaccination history, past respiratory illnesses, and healthcare utilization using a study-specific web platform and mobile app.

When participants exhibit symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, they will self-administer a multi-pathogen rapid test. It is administered in the same way as at-home SARS-CoV-2 tests. However, it simultaneously tests for SARS-CoV-2, RSV, influenza A, and influenza B, and can also detect co-infections.  Participants may also be asked to collect nasal swabs and saliva for PCR testing.  Participants may complete additional questionnaires over the ensuing six months, with measures detailing symptoms, healthcare engagements and treatments, and new clinical diagnoses.

“The findings are expected to inform future public health strategies and interventions to mitigate the impact of severe respiratory viruses on population health outcomes,” says Nash.

About the CUNY SPH
The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) is committed to promoting and sustaining healthier populations in New York City and around the world through excellence in education, research, and service in public health and by advocating for sound policy and practice to advance social justice and improve health outcomes for all.

About the CUNY ISPH
The CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) was founded on the notion that substantial improvements in population health can be efficiently achieved through better implementation of existing strategies, policies, and interventions across multiple sectors. With that in mind, we study how to translate and scale up evidence-based interventions and policies within clinical and community settings in order to improve population health and reduce health disparities.