Brothers Andrew and Hudson McNulty know exactly what the nasal swab test for COVID-19 feels like. The two boys wrinkle their noses and rub their eyes. “It feels a little weird and it kind of hurts,” says seven-year-old Andrew. The boys and their parents are participants in a COVID-19 research study. The McNulty family is one of 2,000 families in 11 U.S. cities collecting data for the research. They are helping scientists understand the coronavirus better.
Each week, study participants answer questions about their health and activities on a survey. Twice per month, they do nose swab tests. In the McNulty boys’ case, a parent inserts a long stick with a soft brush on the end up the child’s nose to collect a sample of secretion.
Scientists need to understand how the coronavirus spreads between kids. They also want to learn more about how the body responds to the virus.
God designed our bodies with a smart system for staying healthy. It’s called the immune system. When an antigen—a germ—like a virus enters the body, it’s the immune system’s job to destroy the intruder. Antigens are unwelcome invaders. They wreak havoc on the body. Among the defenses the immune system has in its arsenal against antigens are antibodies. These little Y-shaped proteins hang out in the bloodstream. Their job is eliminating antigens. Antibodies tag cells infected by a virus and destroy them. This prevents the antigen from reproducing, spreading, and infecting more healthy cells.
Once the immune system has activated antibodies against a certain antigen, it can then better fight off new infections caused by the same type of antigens. That’s why finding a vaccine to the coronavirus is so important. If a body can recognize the virus’ specific cells—whether from a previous infection or from antibodies created in response to a vaccine—then it will more readily create antibodies in defense. If the virus attacks the body again, the immune system kicks in to fight back. After all, that’s how God created it to work!
The COVID-19 study that the McNulty family is participating in is like a family science project. Along with the nasal swab test, participants take their own blood samples. Mendy McNulty is happy to collect and share her family’s information. Her family hopes to help scientists broaden their understanding of how the virus operates and help others with the results.
Isaiah 41:6 says, “Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’”