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All over the world, and thus also in Munich, people are currently in the midst of an unprecedented situation. They are directly or indirectly confronted with the consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic and experience how "social distancing" or "self-isolation" determine their everyday life. They keep their distance from each other in public space and only meet relatives or friends virtually. They do this to protect themselves and others from the spread of the novel coronavirus and to ensure medical care, especially for the most severely affected patients.

Representative sample of Munich households
But to what extent will the COVID 19 pandemic continue to keep us in suspense and what is the effectiveness of the countermeasures? Experts are calling for better data to be made available in order to be able to assess this. The Tropical Institute at the LMU Klinikum München (Department of Infectious and Tropical Medicine) recognized this need early on and, together with the Bavarian State Government, prepared the project "Prospective COVID-19 Cohort Munich" (KoCo19 for short). It is planned to visit up to 3,000 representatively selected households in the Munich area at various intervals, to examine the state of infection among the study participants and to collect further health information.

Joining forces with the Munich research community
In order to analyze the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the population, cooperation partners from the Center for International Health (CIH), the Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine and the Institute for Emergency Medicine and Medical Management (INM) of the LMU Klinikum, as well as Helmholtz Zentrum München are working together under the leadership of the infectious disease physician and director of the Tropical Institute, Prof. Dr. med. Michael Hölscher. In addition to analyzing the spread of the virus, antibody tests will also be used to determine how many people have already become infected with the virus without ever having experienced symptoms. This is because they too can transmit SARS-CoV-2 and thus promote the pandemic. In addition, it is important to determine the time interval during which the disease spreads within the household.

Aid for political decision-making
The effectiveness of current measures (e.g. the avoidance of social contacts or mobility restrictions) can be better assessed with the help of this study. Bavarian Minister-President Dr. Markus Söder affirms: "The KoCo19 study can help politicians to better assess the dynamics of the pandemic and thus make the best possible decisions based on facts. For this reason it is important to collect data on the Bavarian COVID-19 situation in a timely manner". A study with randomly selected households is the gold standard of such epidemiological studies. Of course, this is not possible for all of Germany or Bavaria. However, the generated data should continue to be used to "calibrate" simpler methods such as cross-sectional studies or examinations of blood donors, and then make them available for the whole of Bavaria.
Minister of Science Bernd Sibler emphasized: "With team spirit against Corona - 100 scientists from Bavaria and about 70 medical students from our universities have joined together in the last two weeks to form an interdisciplinary team and prepared themselves quickly and professionally for this project. This pioneering alliance of scientific expertise in the Free State gives me great hope. Together we are working to better understand this virus, to fight it effectively and to emerge successfully from this crisis!

From antibody tests to diaries
In order to be able to make such predictions, the study includes people of all age groups from the total population of Munich. The researchers randomly select 3,000 Munich households and invite them to participate in the study. All household members over the age of 14 years will be interviewed in person and asked for a blood sample to determine antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. In case of current symptoms, a throat swab can also be taken. In addition, each household member can voluntarily keep a symptom, whereabouts and contact diary via app.

This should be repeated several times over a period of about twelve months. If typical symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 occur between visits to the household members, it is possible to have a nasopharyngeal swab taken at the Tropical Institute of the LMU Klinikum München between the scheduled appointments. This can be used for molecular detection of an acute coronavirus infection. In case of severe symptoms, admission to a Munich hospital will follow.

Since Sunday 05 April 2020, the medical teams of the study are on the road in various parts of Munich. Prof. Michael Hölscher, Director of the Tropical Institute at LMU Klinikum München, calls on Munich residents to participate: "In order to be able to counter the pandemic smartly, we must be able to understand the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and estimate exactly how many people have already successfully survived the infection. In the coming months, this will be one of the most important parameters for managing social distancing measures. Representative samples are a good instrument for this purpose".

"The instant organization of this cooperation, to which, for example, our best brains for modeling in artificial intelligence contribute, shows the functioning cooperation of top medical research in Munich", says Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Tschöp, CEO at Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Further information is available here