Oregon State University’s TRACE COVID-19 Project marks one year anniversary

Oregon State University's Trace Covid 19 Program Continues Research One Year Into Pandemic

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As we’ve surpassed the one year anniversary of COVID-19 in the US, Oregon State University is marking a full year of their TRACE COVID-19 Project.

The project launched April 25, 2020 in Corvallis, where the OSU campus is located, and started with door-to-door virus testing to see the prevalence of the virus in the local community.

Students and faculty took to the streets to test random individuals for COVID-19, and send those tests back for sequencing at an OSU lab.

OSU’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing has also sequenced RNA samples from wastewater, to learn more about COVID-19 variants and it’s presence in the community.

Eventually the project grew so big, they received a $1.2 million grant from the Oregon State Health Authority to expand sewer surveillance throughout the state. In November 2020, TRACE received $3 million to expand efforts across the nation.

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“TRACE programs are starting at two other major universities across the country as part of the coordination network we are leading, funded by the Packard Foundation,” OSU population biologist Ben Dalziel said. “We hope to grow the network to include more university partners in the coming months, focusing on minority-serving institutions.”

Since the program started, experts with the TRACE Project have conducted over 60,000 individual virus tests, in addition to 3,000 wastewater tests. Their studies took them across the state, even making a stop in Hermiston, Oregon for virus surveillance.

During their research, scientists discovered over 400 asymptomatic, COVID-19 cases, which means they were able to halt the virus in its tracks before it could spread. Experts with the project said if it weren’t for their efforts, these people could have spread the virus without even knowing it.

Although a year has passed, the Oregon students and staffs’ work isn’t over. As more variant cases pop up in our communities, research will continue at the OSU TRACE Center along with taking the information they’ve learned in the past year and how they can apply it for future disease outbreaks.