Seeking Better Treatments, Hawaii Researchers Look for COVID Positive Volunteers

Jun 19, 2020

A team from the University of Hawaii is hoping to find better ways to treat COVID-19 by analyzing the experiences of other patients.

To do that, researchers from the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the University of Hawaii Economic Research organization are seeking volunteers  who have received a positive COVID-19 test within the past 60 days. The goal is to study those individuals, explore how the viral infection develops in the body, and how health and demographic factors impact the progression.

Ruben Juarez, University of Hawaii economist who studies networks,  is one of the study’s co-principal investigators and says researchers hope to identify factors associated with resilience to the novel coronavirus, officially designated SARS CoV-2.

“We are hoping to catalogue what is a healthy and unhealthy antibody response, based on pre-existing conditions,” Juarez said. “We’re hoping this study will allow us to target specific individuals or communities, and find those factors that make up resilience, to be able to decrease complications and decrease their using the healthcare system.”

Data from the state Department of Health shows that different ethnic groups in Hawaii are contracting COVID-19 at very different rates. Native Hawaiians make up much smaller percentage of infected patients than their share of the overall population.

But Filipinos and Pacific Islanders have been infected at rates well above their share of the broader population. Juarez says the researchers hope to identify what is contributing to those trends and thus reduce the number of  cases that require hospitalization.

“As we reopen the state, we expect to see more use of the healthcare system, especially for severe complications,” Juarez noted. “This research will allow us to prevent those complications by catching individuals early on who are not responding.”

Avoiding the threat of overwhelmed healthcare systems, as seen in New York and Italy, was a major reason for lockdown orders issued in countries around the world.

Interested participants can contact the investigators by emailing covid19hi@gmail.com or by calling 808-989-2043. More information on the study can be found here.