Switzerland and other countries are gradually easing the protective measures that were put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. But despite relief at liberties regained, many people are worried that the risk of infection may rise again when more of us are out and about. Three research projects by UZH are tackling these urgent questions from a medical point of view.
How many people are immune?
Professor Milo Puhan is coordinating the Swiss-wide study “Corona Immunitas”, which is intended to bring clarity to the great unknown: How many Swiss residents have already formed antibodies against COVID-19? The results will be differentiated according to region, age and risk group. One of the aspects it is important to clarify is whether the coronavirus is also circulating among children without them displaying symptoms, and whether it is true that children do not infect adults. Corona Immunitas will give politicians the data necessary for them to make decisions about how to ease the lockdown appropriately.
Once immune, always immune?
The team working with Professor Alexandra Trkola have been running tests 24 hours a day, seven days a week over the last month. Now that the number of coronavirus infections is starting to decrease, they are turning to the next big question: Does once immune mean always immune? Are people who have been infected with coronavirus then immune to the virus? Even those who did not notice any symptoms? And if so, does the immunity against COVID-19 last their whole lives?
How to recognize severe cases?
Professor Onur Boyman is investigating the third important question about COVID-19: How can one recognize (as quickly as possible) whether an infected person is at risk of the illness developing into a severe case? Not every person over the age of 65 experiences the worst-case scenario, and many of them get over coronavirus without needing intensive care. So what makes the difference? If doctors already knew at the beginning of the illness which factors indicate a likely severe case, they could treat the real high-risk patients more quickly and effectively.
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