The coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, has dramatically transformed the lives of people around the globe. It has decimated economies, overwhelmed health care systems and affected families in unimaginable ways. However, in spite of the havoc that it has caused, COVID-19 has furthered our understanding of pandemic control beyond anything that we've known before. Most importantly, it has proven the resilience of the scientific and healthcare communities.
Data sharing is a huge aspect of how epidemiologists can begin to understand diseases. It provides insight in terms of the populations that the conditions affect, as well as the speed and extent of transmission. This is something that health care professionals at UNC and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are attempting to address with the establishment of SECURE-IBD.
SECURE-IBD is a project that is focused on collecting disease-specific COVID-19 data, with an emphasis on patients with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and colitis, who contract the virus.
The registry takes patients with varying disease symptoms and hospitalizations and connects them with specialists and healthcare professionals. The tool has inspired other disease-specific registries, and can be used to identify things like potential drugs and treatments. It also connects doctors and scientists in a way that hasn’t been this widely done in the past.
Data sharing has also allowed researchers to collaborate on projects in order to study coronavirus at an expedited pace. The virus was sequenced within a week of discovery and has been made publicly available. Courses at UNC, such as Computer Science 555 (Bioalgorithms), have even integrated the genome into everyday classwork. And although academic life has generally been branded with the 'publish or perish' mindset for decades, publishing is the last thing on anyone’s minds at the moment.