U of T students invited to take part in campus study of COVID-19 exposure

Researchers at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health are hoping to test students who live on any of U of T's three campuses, or who have a reason to attend regularly, to learn whether they've previously been exposed to COVID-19 (photo by Johnny Guatto)

Students at the University of Toronto who live on campus or have a documented reason to attend any of the three campuses regularly are invited to participate in a study to learn whether they’ve been previously exposed to COVID-19.

Researchers from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health are hoping to test a third of eligible students between now and Dec. 22, which is the last day of the fall term. The study will measure the proportion of students who test positive for antibodies and track how this proportion changes through the winter and spring terms.


“This study will help researchers and public health leaders to understand how much COVID-19 is being spread over time on university campuses,” says Professor France Gagnon, Dalla Lana’s associate dean of research and one of the study’s co-investigators. “Students will have a chance to make a major contribution to the science around the changing nature of risk in an adult student population.”


Data from the study could shed light on how events like winter or spring breaks influence COVID-19 exposure levels. It may also play a role in helping to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines once they are available. 

Signing up and completing the test is simple.

To learn whether you’re eligible to take part, check your U of T student email account. If you are eligible, you’ll see an invitation from Sandy Welsh, vice-provost, students. Click on the study website to sign up and receive a finger-prick kit in the mail. Participants will receive up to $60 worth of Uber Eats gift cards.

“It’s easy and quick to use the kit, and we only need a few drops of your blood to detect antibodies to learn whether you’ve been exposed to the virus causing COVID-19,” says Shaza Fadel, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health who is running the study. “Antibodies are proteins that your body produces at least a week after being exposed to fight off foreign invaders like viruses.”


Study participants will learn the results of their test. But Fadel cautions that a positive result doesn’t mean you can stop distancing or masking.

“The results of these tests should not alter your behaviour in any way,” says Fadel. “The presence of antibodies doesn’t necessarily mean you are immune to COVID-19 right now. We still don’t know how strong the antibody response needs to be, or how long it lasts, before an individual is immune. Please continue to protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season.”

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