Nov. 23, 2020

The Serotracker

Alumni and students develop tool to track Covid-19 spread

In early April, Rahul Arora, BHSc’19 and Tingting Yan, BHSc’19 wanted to find a way to contribute meaningfully to the pandemic response. The former classmates quickly realized that they could organize the University of Calgary alumni, epidemiologists, and programmers in their networks, building a tool that could help with Canada’s Covid-19 strategy.

The group of students from six different universities in three different countries mobilized their collective talents and launched SeroTracker, an online tool that tracks and visualizes global Covid-19 serology testing data — testing that examines blood samples for antibodies which indicate that a person had been exposed to the novel coronavirus. The group is actively tracking population-wide serology testing efforts across the globe.

The project started as an informal conversation but quickly evolved into an initiative that is now integral to Canada’s Immunity Task Force and is catching the attention of public health organizations globally. “This initiative was started by students who formed an international team and presented something that was missing in the world that everyone, everywhere is now realizing has great value,” says Dr. Tyler Williamson, PhD, part of the SeroTracker team and an associate professor with the Cumming School of Medicine.

“Confirmed case counts are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID-19. Serology data lets us look below the surface, to understand the true extent of the pandemic and how many people have been exposed to the virus,” says Arora. Working with Dr. Tim Evans, MD, D.Phil, executive director of the national COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, the students developed a tool that will further the understanding of the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus both nationally and globally.

The SeroTracker dashboard monitors studies and news reports to track seroprevalence data – the percentage of people in a population who have antibodies against the novel coronavirus. The website aggregates serology data from studies and news reports in different populations, and built-in filters allow users to compare seroprevalence levels between countries, occupations, and demographic groups. And while this initiative is providing valuable information to Canada’s Immunity Task Force it is also garnering significant attention internationally after the release of the team’s paper in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Public health organizations such as CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), the Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in conversations with the group.

Next, the team will build a more granular version of the dashboard that will focus solely on Canadian seroprevalence studies. This will help us understand which people and populations have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and understand how Covid-19 exposure has changed over time and across provinces.

SeroTracker is supported by a grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada through the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

Click here to access SeroTracker: www.serotracker.com

For more information about the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force: https://www.covid19immunitytaskforce.ca/

Rahul Arora, BHSc’19, is currently a Rhodes Scholar and DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford, and an Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary.

Tingting Yan, BHSc’19 is an MD / MSc candidate at the University of Toronto.  

Dr. Tyler Williamson, BSc’05, PhD’11,  is the associate director of the Centre for Health Informatics at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), an associate professor of biostatistics in the Department of Community Health Sciences, and a member of the O’Brien Institute of Public Health and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Rahul Arora, BHSc '19

Rahul Arora, BHSc '19

Roth and Ramberg

Team Leads
Rahul Arora, BHSc’19
Tingting Yan, BHSc’19
Research Team
Niklas Bobrovitz, MSc’1 3, BHSc ‘11
Emily Boucher, BHSc’19, MD student, University of Calgary
Hannah Rahim, BHSc’20
Christian Cao , student, BHSc, University of Calgary
Claire Donnici BHSc’20, MD / MSc student, University of Calgary
Natasha Ilincic, University of Guelph
Michael Liu, University of Oxford /Harvard University
Mitchell Segal, University of Toronto
Lucas Penny, University of Toronto
Mairead Whelan, BHSc’19 University of Calgary, MSc’20 Oxford University
Judy Chen, McGill University

Development Team
Austin Atmaja, University of Waterloo
Abel Joseph, University of Waterloo
Ewan May, Current student, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary
Brett Dziedzic, University of Lethbridge
Simona Rocco, University of Waterloo
Jordan Van Wyk, University of Waterloo
Joanna Chen, University of Waterloo

Private-Sector Monitoring Team
Nathan Duarte, University of Waterloo
Abhinav Pillai, student, Biological Sciences, University of Calgary
Natalie Duarte