In early March, just as the pandemic was gaining steam in the St. Louis region, Jane O’Halloran, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine, and Philip Mudd, MD, PhD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, met to discuss the possibility of creating a COVID-19 specimen bank. Two and a half weeks later, they began collecting their first samples from COVID-19 patients. “The whole process would normally take at least six months,” Mudd said in a St. Louis Public Radio interview. “It was a very fast turnaround from conception to starting the project.”
Washington University researchers are continuing to collect blood, saliva and urine samples, with the goal of recruiting at least 500 people. When a patient is tested for COVID-19 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital or an affiliate testing site, hospital workers ask if they’d be willing to provide medical samples. A month later, the patient returns to the hospital for a follow-up visit and a second round of specimen collection. About 20 labs on the Medical and Danforth campuses are using the samples for a broad range of studies, including research on immune responses to the virus and whether genetic factors may put a person at higher risk.