Researching innovative solutions to stop the spread of COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 Research

Our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 is limited. The Microsetta Initiative, alongside the San Diego COVID Research Enterprise Network (SCREEN), has an incredible opportunity to help mitigate the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and better understand whether there are factors that could explain the variability observed in symptoms or susceptibility. Our research group is unique in that we have the full-stack of scientific and technical expertise and the ability to do human sampling quickly enough to perform the research. Our results will drive epidemiological studies of where the SARS-CoV-2 virus is and isn't and help researchers determine who is at highest risk, who has developed antibodies, how the virus is transmitted, and how it spreads through a population.

Through the support of citizen scientists like you, we have the capabilities to understand better how SARS-CoV-2 transmits amongst the general population. Preliminary research has found that viral particles are detectable in fecal samples and the saliva of patients diagnosed with COVID-19; the risk of transmission from these sources is unknown. Our team will be investigating if the microbiome can become a biomarker for the virus or whether specific microbiome configurations are, for example, related to whether we can detect the virus.

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Our dedicated team has redesigned our sample collection kits using materials that do not compete with those used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 protocol.

Specifically, we have modified our kits to:

Preserve viral RNA:

Instead of including dry swabs appropriate for collecting microbial DNA, the kits mailed out to participants will now contain 95 percent ethanol, which preserves viral RNA, the genetic material used by SARS-CoV-2 (live viruses cannot survive in ethanol). This information will help researchers better understand how the virus spreads, as well as the environmental and lifestyle factors that might increase a person's risk for contracting and transmitting the virus.

Collect blood samples:

The kits will also include lancets - small devices that allow for easy blood sample collection by finger-stick, similar to at-home glucose tests used routinely by persons with diabetes. Only a couple of drops of blood will be drawn. The team will store the donated blood samples for future studies. For example, the samples may be used to determine who has already been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and has developed immunity in the form of antibodies. Many research groups around the world are currently developing ways to detect these antibodies (serological tests).


Our kits are in high demand: To make sure citizen science participants can take part, we have a waitlist you can join to receive a kit.

Please note: Our kits are for research purposes only, not for use in diagnostic procedures. We cannot answer any COVID-19 questions related to treatment or diagnosis. Consult with the CDC’s online guide if you're feeling sick.

What else are we doing?

Our team at the UC San Diego School of Medicine has been working alongside frontline medical workers battling the pandemic. We have been collecting samples from infected patients, from surfaces in the ICU rooms they occupy, the walkways outside the rooms, and the medical professionals providing care. By collecting these samples, we have already begun receiving preliminary information on COVID-19 transmission in clinical settings. This incredible ongoing effort has primarily been made possible through donations from around the world. Finding a solution to the pandemic is a shared responsibility, and the solution must be global.

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Thank you to our sponsors