Skip to main content

NIH’s All of Us Program Joins Fight Against COVID-19

Posted on by

We’ve learned so much about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but there’s still much more that we need to learn in order to defeat this devastating pandemic. Among the critical questions: why do some young people who appear healthy and have no history of chronic disease get very sick from the virus? And why do some people in their 80s or 90s seemingly just shrug off the infection? There’s something going on biologically, but we don’t yet have the answers.

We do, however, have some resources that will enable us to examine lots of data in search of biological clues. One of them is NIH’s All of Us Research Program, which is seeking the help of 1 million people to build one of the most diverse health databases in our nation’s history. Two years after its national launch, the program already has enrolled nearly 350,000 diverse participants from across the United States.

As its name suggests, All of Us is open to all people over age 18 in communities all around the country. An important strength of the effort has been welcoming participants from all backgrounds. Indeed, about 75 percent of people who have volunteered for the program come from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in medical research. That includes people from many racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as those of many different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographic locations, including remote and rural areas.

Because of COVID-19 and the need for physical distancing to curb the spread of the potentially deadly virus, All of Us has been forced to halt temporarily all in-person appointments. But program leaders, including Josh Denny, chief executive officer of All of Us, and Kelly Gebo, the program’s chief medical and scientific officer, saw an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and help during this unprecedented public health challenge. In fact, Gebo reports that they’d already been hearing from many of their participant partners that they wanted to be a part of the solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To rise to this challenge, the All of Us Research Program has just announced three initiatives to assist the scientific community in seeking new insights into COVID-19. The program will:

• Test blood samples from 10,000 or more participants for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, indicating prior infection. The testing will start on samples collected in March 2020 and work backward until positive tests are no longer found. This will show the prevalence of novel coronavirus exposure among All of Us participants from across the country, allowing researchers to sift through the data and assess the varying rates and timing of infections across regions and communities.

• Rapidly collect relevant information from more than 200,000 participants who have shared their electronic health records. A number of those participants have already either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or sought health care for related symptoms. The program is working to standardize this information. It will help researchers look for patterns and learn more about COVID-19 symptoms and associated health problems, as well as the effects of different medicines and treatments.

• Deploy a new online survey to understand better the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on participants’ physical and mental health. This 20- to 30-minute survey is designed both for participants who have been ill with COVID-19 and those who have not knowingly been infected. Questions will be included on COVID-19 symptoms, stress, social distancing and the economic impacts of the pandemic. Participants are invited to take the survey each month until the pandemic ends, so researchers can study the effects of COVID-19 over time and begin to better understand how and why COVID-19 affects people differently.

As this data becomes available, researchers will look for new leads to inform our efforts to bring greater precision to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19, including for those communities that have been hit the hardest. Another hope is that what is learned about COVID-19 through All of Us and other NIH-supported research will provide us with the knowledge and tools we need to avert future pandemics,

In case you’re wondering, I happen to be among the thousands of people who’ve already volunteered to take part in All of Us. If you’d like to get involved too, new participants are always welcome to join.

Links:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) (NIH)

All of Us Research Program (NIH)

Join All of Us (NIH)

12 Comments

  • Irene Kenny says:

    I just can not wrap my head/heart to WHY the NIH is not putting all the egos aside and gathering all the expert infectious disease researchers and putting their heads together to address COVID-19….I just don’t understand…..If there was a time to believe in science this is the time to set up to the challenge.

    • Patrick W. says:

      But they are . . . it’s global collaboration that is moving things must faster and more efficiently that any government(s) could hope to!

    • harpat949 says:

      They are not even looking at the worldwide infection rates and try to figure out why so many underdeveloped countries have 20 to 2000 times lower infection rates and deaths per million people than the developed countries. Vietnam is a good example with near zero deaths. It would lead to the conclusion that the airborne virus transmission is ignored. The developed countries have closed facilities and HVAC, the underdeveloped countries have open ventilation predominantly. They breathe fresh air whereas we breathe virus laden air in grocery stores, drug stores, multi residential buildings, buses etc. Most viruses historically were transmitted airborne and not just by contact.

      • jmunn says:

        Have you considered that many of these “underdeveloped” nations do not have the funds and infrastructure to test their citizens, notwithstanding those countries that choose to skew their results or report any numbers at all ……. etc.

        • harpat949 says:

          Yes, I have considered that absolutely. Look at what percentage of Americans are tested. At the time I made the comment, 97% were not tested. Even today 88% are not tested. See worldometers data.
          The Infected numbers in the thirld world are probably higher than stated but the deaths are more accurate and they often correlate with lower infection data. Vietnam has 2000 times lower infection rates. I don’t doubt their numbers. They are far more vigilant than America. They have zero deaths. Even if you multiply their numbers by 10, they leave us in the dust. In many countries, because of bureaucracy the numbers are not recorded promptly but that is what some people say about the US, In any case, a factor of 100 difference leaves a lot of room for error and still the difference is astounding. In many of these countries, social distancing is impractical because of population density. There are migrant problems that most developed countries don’t have. They don’t have enough water to wash their hands. Without these problems they would do much better. Their real advantage is fewer closed facilities with closed ventilation, stores, multi residential buildings, etc.. They don’t know that advantage so most get infected in buses, especially those with closed windows and air conditioned trains. Some observers noted lot of infections in air conditioned trains and warned the railway minister. He thought the blankets were infected and did not realize, the virus is airborne so the infections continue.
          This kind of thinking, that more infections in the USA and developed countries is due to testing has blindsided every one and they ignore the airborne transmission.

    • harpat949 says:

      Yes ego is what is killing so many people. All the powers that are are blindsided and have no mechanism to listen to opinions of others.

  • Patrick W. says:

    Yep 👍🏽 I’m part of All Of Us!

  • Marilyn S. says:

    I may be interested in participating in All of Us, but I have no reason to trust the testing. Which one is reliable, which one(s) are not? This seems so very critical to entire process. Why has this subject not been addressed to the hilt? I have not bothered to be tested because I do not trust the tests! Now what?

  • James C. says:

    I’m a big believer in the All of Us initiative but frustrated with some of the systemics. I have an extensive already existing 15 year electronic health record of diagnosis, treatments, test results, etc., yet there seems to be no way for All of Us to use my military electronic health record at Walter Reed when I’d think such existing electronic health records would be sought for easy addition to the All of Us database??

  • Dr Victor M. Shorrocks says:

    There is very good evidence linking low selenium status with greater virus virulence and more mutations of several viruses and from China of reduced incidence of Covid-19 .
    Dietary selenium supplementation trials are now required. Where would these be carried out in the US?

  • John H. says:

    The recent All of Us online COVID-19 survey asked to many unrelated questions. Take the survey and you decide!

  • negiankit says:

    Hi, I am glad that I have gone through such an astonishing post, Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Comment