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Covid testing research website developed by ASU consolidates data for researchers

First of its kind, Evidence Commons allows scientists to share disease testing research and could prepare the University for future pandemics


 The Evidence Commons is the first and only website to have a comprehensive repository of published COVID-19 research focused on diagnostic testing and testing practices.

ASU researchers have created Evidence Commons, a website of over 3,000 published works launched in September about COVID-19 testing to allow researchers to easily access the data and science behind coronavirus tests.

The Evidence Commons is the first and only website to have a comprehensive repository of published COVID-19 research focused on diagnostic testing and testing practices, according to the website.

"The Evidence Commons allows the scientific community to share its findings on disease testing research," said Mara Aspinall, a professor of practice at College of Health Solutions and principal investigator on the Evidence Commons Grant in an email.

"Evidence Commons provides unique 'one-stop' access to the diagnostic-related research critical to enhanced scientific collaboration and pandemic mitigation and prevention," Aspinall said. 

Aspinall said testing is helpful as is, but research and the efficiency of the test data are harder to locate for medical professionals.

On the Evidence Commons website, there are charts that list different categories related to diagnostic testing. One of them is the sample collection location, which shows that predominantly tests were collected at medical facilities.

Vel Murugan, associate director of research and associate research professor at the Biodesign Institute, and Neal Woodbury, vice president and chief science and technology officer at the ASU Knowledge Enterprise, worked together on diagnostic testing for ASU students.

They said diagnostic testing at ASU is a huge process that is always changing due to the state of the pandemic.

 “The state was supporting us to do a tremendous amount of work all over the state,” Woodbury said.  

At the height of the pandemic, ASU held 20 different testing sites across Arizona that gave anyone who wanted a test an opportunity to take one.  With the coronavirus slowing down, the government stopped funding the sites, so now ASU focuses on the Devils' drop-off, an on-campus coronavirus saliva testing option open to all students, faculty and staff.

Murugan said when the coronavirus started, the University decided to use the nasal swab test but quickly moved over to saliva-based testing because it was easier for everyone. 

When Murugan and his team get a saliva test, they put them at 65 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes in order to reduce the risk of handling live samples to keep the Clinical Testing Lab protected.

The lab tests the sample in three different ways as a good assurance policy to prevent the lab from sending out false positives to test takers. 

Woodbury said the lab also wants to make sure there is a turnaround time for these tests so people can get their results as soon as possible, at most two days.

"The reason that time and sensitivity are important, and particularly were important earlier in the pandemic, was because we were trying to help people stem the transmission of the virus," Woodbury said. 

Aspinall said for future pandemics, Evidence Commons can better help researchers by providing them with essential data. 

"Evidence Commons puts the critical information about diagnostics technology in one place," Aspinall said. "There has been so much debate in the last two years about diagnostic technology – Which test technologies work best? When is the best time to use each technology?"

Edited by Kaden Ryback, David Rodish and Luke Chatham.

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