One of the main challenges of dealing with Covid19 is that most infected people only show mild symptoms or are even asymptomatic. Therefore, these people may have been unaware active spreaders of the virus.

Currently, most countries only test people with medium-severe symptoms. The main reason for that is that testing is expensive and requires quite some lab work. Therefore, only a tiny portion of the population has been tested. In addition, testing policies vary across and even within countries and have been modified over time.

This resulted in little, scattered, incomplete, and biased data about the actual virus spread. The lack of good data makes it very difficult for policy makers to make predictions and in general to deal with the virus.

Luckily, serological tests will very soon be available. These tests will be central to routine diagnosis of Covid19, since they provide also indications on previous, potentially asymptomatic exposure to the virus, in addition to the actual health state of a patient. In other words, they detect whether a patient's immune system has already fought the virus. Their great advantage is that they are cheap and can be performed at home (like for a pregnancy test). This also implies that these data can be collected without increasing the workload of the health actors, who are currently under great pressure.

What it does

We want to leverage on the results of serological tests such that the actual spread in the population is known and made available to decision makers and to the scientific community.

We want every country to make sure that large-scale serological testing is carried out and these data is centrally collected. Therefore, serological tests should be made available along with some information on how to communicate the results of these tests, mostly likely via a online questionnaire.

In addition to the results of the serological test (i.e. immune to the virus / not immune to the virus), additional data such as demographics (age, gender, ...) and risk exposure will be be collected (we created a webpage to give an idea of the information to be collected, see url below).

Once these data are available: (topics are ordered from short- to long-term effects)

  • We will have a much better picture about how many people susceptible to get infected are left in the population. This will greatly help resources planing in e.g. hospitals.
  • Those found to be immune to the virus may actively contribute to make the economy run again (yes, back to work guys).
  • Vaccination campaigns could be targeted to only those who really need it.
  • Finally, the good-quality data available will be enormously useful to the scientific community to better understand the spread history of the virus and to test which measures are truly effective in containing the spread.

How we built it

We only built a prototype of the website that should be implemented. We want every country to implement such a website asap and also make sure to people are properly encouraged to communicate their data.

Challenges we ran into

Get together a mixed team composed of a statistician (Matteo Tanadini), a bioinformatician (Antoine Buetti-Dinh), a Covid19 infectiologist currently active on the Swiss territory (Niccolò Buetti) and a webdesigner (Anna Rigamonti).

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Having attracted the attention from the Covid19-specialised centre, Carità Hospital, Locarno, the major hotspot in Switzerland for current Covid19 treatment.

What we learned

Quick deployment of technological SOPs (standard operating procedures) and to properly plan an Hackathon in our agenda :)

What's next for Sero Data - Zero Cases

The concept we presented here is simple, relatively easy and quick to implement, but nevertheless, could have a huge impact on the fight against the virus. The most important thing is to act very quickly!

Therefore, we need to get in touch with the relevant Federal offices and put this into practice before serological tests become available to the population.

Monsieur le conseiller fédérale Parmelin, pour vous aider et pour aider la population Suisse et mondiale on a maintenant besoin de votre aide.

Built With

  • r
  • shiny
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posted an update

Dear all,

Thank you very much for your feedback and support. Many among you, especially academic researchers, pointed out that a) the questionnaire about exposure risks should be improved and b) the website is not scalable. We fully agree.

Indeed, if this project goes ahead we plan to 1) get in touch with field researchers to optimise the questions asked in the form and 2) the website must be done by the Federal Government. Indeed, it must be scalable, central and unique (many parallel initiatives would be very bad here) and last but not least trusted. We know you trust us guys ;) But anyone must trust the website and feel save in sharing his/her information.

A federal initiative for handling patient sensitive data is already in place in Switzerland through the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) and consists of dedicated infrastructure for data storage and deployment of analysis pipelines (Vital-IT) which would optimally fit the design of our R-code based prototype.

Hope this clarifies a bit better the actual implementation of the project.

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