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RAs of the Week!

Meet more of our awesome undergraduate research assistants!


Meet Afnan!

Afnan is one of our clinic RAs and joined the C.A.T.C.H. study this past  summer. Not only does she do an awesome job in the clinic, she also is helping on a cloning project in the lab! Afnan is a senior, public health science major. On campus, she is also member of Tau Sigma, a Honor Society. Believe it or not, Afnan can be found going for runs at 6am! In the future, she is hoping to go to medical school and become a doctor. If your lucky when you come to clinic you will have Afnan as your RA!


Meet Ankita!

Ankita is one of our clinic RAs and joined the C.A.T.C.H. study last spring. Ankita is a junior, general biology major. When Ankita is not in clinic she can be found working with scholars alumni, in the QUEST honors program, or working as a swim instructor. She loves her job as a swim instructor! In the future Ankita is hoping to go to medical school and serve in a nonprofit organization. If your lucky when you come to clinic you will have Ankita as your RA!

Cool Paper

Technology is always changing. To help us identify different viruses that are collected on swabs in the clinic we use PCR assay. This process takes 3-4 hours to run and collect information. A recent study has found an alternative method called loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). During a comparative study it was found that this technique is just as sensitive and specific to identifying and quantifying viruses. The main difference is that this method only takes 1 hour from swab collection to results! 

Check out this cool paper!

RAs of the Week

Meet some of our awesome undergraduate research assistants!

Meet Hannah!

Hannah is one of our clinic RAs and has been apart of our study since fall 2017. She is a junior who is working on making her own major! When she isn’t in the clinic she can be found doing a campus tour with Images, in the University of Maryland Repertoire Orchestra, or dancing with UMD’s Israeli Dance Troupe. In the future she hopes to go into neuropsychology and do research on the brain mechanisms of attention, development of educational/therapeutic interventions for individuals with ADHD, or teaching. If your lucky when you come to clinic you will have Hannah as your RA!


Meet Carmen!Carmen is one of our lab RAs and has been part of our study since Fall 2017. She is a junior, general biology major. On campus, she is the service chair of Viet Nam Medical Assistance Program (VNMAP), working to address healthcare disparities in the Asian-American community! In the future she hopes to become a physician that not only impacts the community, but also be involved in changing and shaping the healthcare system for a better future! You know your samples are in good hands if Carmen has them!

Potential New Technology!

Spire Tag!

Image result for spire tag

A Spire Tag is worn on the inside of your clothing, becoming virtually invisible. They measure: heart rate, respiratory rate, tension, stress, sleep and exercise! They even remind you to breath when you are stressed or tense.

Make your clothes smart!

Image result for spire tagImage result for spire tag

More information coming soon.

See the Gesundheit-II in action (vintage clip from 2013)

In an online post called “Avoid the ‘back-to-school plague’ of flu and cold” CNN has a clip of the G-II in action in 2013 — when we collected samples from 178 people with influenza-like illness on the College Park Campus of the University of Maryland. A total of 156 of them had influenza virus infections and results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018.

Guess who’s back?

That’s right, CATCH is returning for another year of sample collection!

We’ll be making some changes but the bare bones are the same:

  • If you get a cold or the flu, we want you and,
  • If you’re friends with someone that has a cold or the flu, we may ask you to come help us out too
  • We want you to download our Smartphone app to help examine how sick people are interacting

Some changes that we’re making include:

  • Sending a daily message to check in with you and ask if you’re feeling OK
  • Recruiting people at the UHC; if you get a positive flu test at the health center, we want you to visit us
  • Following students outside the Cambridge Community, or even off campus.

That’s all folks!

Thank you to everyone that participated in the 2017/2018 academic year!!!


We ended up with 164 participants who visited the clinic, with a total of 627 visits, 264 downloads of the Smartphone App, which ended up collecting over 1.8 MILLION data points, and 283 completed baseline surveys.  All of this means we got some amazing data, and were able to give out $___ in compensation to our amazing participants!


The clinical visits were divided into several categories, as indicated by the figure below.  A “Brief Case” visit was made when a person reported they were feeling ill.  If they met certain criteria that suggested they may be sick with one of our target viruses, they also provided samples for an “In Depth Case” visit.  Those that were confirmed to be infected with a target pathogen provided the names of their closest contacts, who were then invited in for a “Contact” visit. contacts that became infected with the same virus as their nominator were brought in as a “Secondary Case.” Finally, those that filled in our Baseline Survey at the beginning of the study were invited to provide a final set of samples as part of a “Study Completion“ visit.


Using our TaqMan Array system, we were able to screen our participants for over 40 different pathogens.  The viral infections we were most interested in this semester included Influenza (both A and B), Coronaviruses, Adenovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and Human Parainfluenza Viruses. A breakdown of the number infections we detected is in the figure, right.


Other infections we were able to detect from our participant samples with our assay included Bacterial infections, such as:

  • Mycoplasma pneumonia,
  • Streptococcus pneumonia,
  • Streptococcus pyogenes, and
  • Bordetella parapertussis.

Other viral infections detected with the assay included:

  • Astrovirus,
  • Epstein-Barr Virus, and
  • Human Metapnuemo Virus.


Most of the infections we detected were a result of Rhinovirus, which while not necessarily one of our target viruses of interest, isn’t that surprising.  They don’t call it the “common cold” for nothing! Some unlucky people were actually infected with multiple viruses, which can be seen in Table 1, detailing coinfections in our participant population.

Another piece of our overall study was monitoring the CO2 levels in the dormitories of the Cambridge Community. CO2 levels can be used to estimate the amount of exhaled breath in a room, which in turn can be used to estimate your exposure risk to respiratory viruses.  Within the Cambridge Community, Cambridge Hall recently underwent renovations, to include a new HVAC system, which allows for air exchange with the outside.  In contrast, Centerville Hall’s ventilation system does not allow for this exchange with the outdoor air supply.  We wanted to examine what affect this difference in ventilation systems might have on infection rates, and found that there was a difference in the number of viral infections between participants residing in buildings with high outdoor air exchange and buildings with low outdoor air exchange.



Number of Residents Cases
All Viral Agents
(rate per 100)
Target 5 Agents
(rate per 100)
High Outdoor Air Exchange 200 2 (1) 2(1)
Low Outdoor Air Exchange 533 53(9.9) 49(9.2)
Not in Targeted Residence Halls 772 20(2.6) 20(2.6)
Total 1505 75 71


Congratulations to Our May and End of Semester Winners for Downloading the Smartphone App!

We want to say a big congratulations to our final two winners.  One was awarded our final monthly prize of $20 and a Giant Microbe, and the other was our big, end-of-semester, and she also won a Giant Microbe, as well as $500!!!

Our final, end-of-semester winner, showing off her Influenza Giant Microbe!


Thanks to all who downloaded the app, it allowed us to collect some great data and will help us to better understand how contact can impact respiratory virus transmission!

Congratulations to our April Smartphone App Download winners!

We’d like to send congratulations out to the winners of our April prize drawings!

Both of these winners received $20 and a Giant Microbe (flu on the left, Rhinovirus on the right).


If you would like a chance to win one of our bimonthly prizes, all you need to do is DOWNLOAD and run our Smartphone App.  Also remember that we’ll have a drawing at the end of the semester and award the winner $500!!!  It’s not too late to download the app and earn entries to win our end of semester prize!

CATCH Presents at UMD Public Health Research Day!

This past Tuesday several students working with CATCH were able to present their work with the study at the Public Health Research @Maryland Day, an event brining together researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and other state and regional community, public health and academic partners.

 Students created posters to present data collected from a variety of study-related subprojects, as well as those reporting the current results of the study overall.

There was a lot of interest in the different projects, and the students did a great job explaining their work and answering questions, even when being grilled by judges.

Overall it was a great event, and a great experience, especially for the undergraduate RAs! Copies of the posters can be viewed on the CATCH website

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