May 6, 2020

NDSU students help conduct COVID-19 antibody testing


NDSU Master of Public Health students recently helped Paul Carson, NDSU professor of practice and director of antimicrobial practice at Sanford Health, and the North Dakota Department of Health perform COVID-19 antibody testing.

The antibody testing benefits the Fargo-Moorhead community, North Dakota and the country in several ways.

The test, which yields results in about 10 minutes, provides a clearer idea of the scope of the viral spread. The blood tests also can be used to verify accuracy of various antibody tests and could give national leaders a window into transmission and the rates of asymptomatic and symptomatic cases.

For the students, it also provided hands-on, real-world career experience that is hard to replicate in a classroom.

“I have been able to learn something new about the dynamics of infectious disease every day. This real-time experience has helped me sharpen my epidemiological skills. No textbook would have been able to give me this experience,” said Sargam Ghimire, a public health graduate research assistant. “It goes from communication skills and time management to record keeping and reporting skills. I believe all of this will ultimately help me become a more confident and a more competent public health professional when I graduate from the program.” 

Public health student Nkolika Nwankwo also is involved in the research. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this project. And I hope to apply all the knowledge gained here as I advance my career,” she said.

NDSU students helping with antibody testing include Ghrimire, Nwankwo, Amelia Nichols, John Seifert and Madison Marion. 

NDSU offers a Master of Public Health degree with specializations in management of infectious diseases, epidemiology, food safety and community health sciences. There also are accelerated master’s degree options available in dietetics, emergency management and microbiology.

“By doing antibody testing, we are able to more fully identify the scope of the outbreak, and by asking in-depth questions around various exposures, better understand under what circumstances the virus is spread,” Carson said. “It also allows us to better understand the use of the various tests we have in our arsenal to identify cases and track the spread of disease.”

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