Largest study of the extent of COVID-19 in young Canadians is underway

In Canada, the vast majority of COVID-19 cases among 0-18 year olds have been mild or asymptomatic. This fact, combined with the reduction in routine laboratory testing for COVID-19 across much of the country, means infection rates among children and adolescents are largely unknown. Additionally, as levels of transmission, vaccination and immunity are continually changing, surveillance is needed to inform public health policy in terms of COVID-19 prevention.

To address this knowledge gap, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), through the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (ICTG), are allocating 2.6 million to conduct the largest serological survey to date in Canada on SARS-CoV-2 in children and youth. The investigation, which benefits from the network established for a proven CIHR-funded study called the Platform for Improving Pediatric Outcomes through the Coordination of Research Networks (POPCORN), is named COVID-19 Seroepidemiology among Children Using Retrieved POPCORN Site Leftover Blood Samples (CURNLS) (Seroepidemiology of COVID-19 in children using blood samples collected from POPCORN sites). It is led by the Drs Soren Gantt and Caroline Quach-Thanh, researchers at the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and professors at the University of Montreal. The POPCORN study is also led by Quach-Thanh and brought together pediatric health researchers from 16 hospital research laboratories across the country to monitor infections, vaccination and social consequences related to COVID-19 in children and youth.

A survey that spans eight provinces

Caroline Quach Thanh

Credit: Amélie Philibert | Montreal university

“The CURNLS survey involves testing existing blood samples from patients aged 0-18 who have visited hospital emergency departments across Canada to determine if they have contracted COVID- 19 and whether they are immune through infection or vaccination, explained the Dr Gantt. We will combine this information with current rates of transmission, hospitalization, vaccination and use of public health measures to inform Canadian public health policy.”

“By including a large number of children from the POPCORN Study research networks, which span eight provinces, the CURNLS survey provides relatively broad seroprevalence data and representatives of children and young people across payroll,” said the Dre Quach-Thanh. In searching for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, including nucleocapsid (N), spike (S), and receptor binding domain (RBD) antigens, scientists in the CURNLS survey pursued several goals. . “We want to determine seropositivity rates due to infection and vaccination, differences in seroprevalence among children of various ages and regions of Canada, and associations between serological measures and trends in viral transmission. and vaccination rates,” said Quach-Thanh.

Five times over the next year, around 7,200 samples will be obtained and tested in the new survey. The analyzes will be carried out according to three distinct age groups in the range of 0 to 18 years.

“The GTIC is funding several studies, particularly among blood donors, through the Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, which continuously provides seroprevalence data in adults, but so far no representing the national pediatric population was not one of them, said the Dr Tim Evans, GTIC Executive Director. The CURNLS survey is the first nationwide serosurvey enabled on children and adolescents and the data it will yield on SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity may predict future pandemic trends, to understand the spectrum of illness arising from infection in this age group, the role of children in community transmission, and the need for additional vaccination or public health measures.”

About the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force

The Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (TICT) in late April 2020 to promote, fund and harmonize research on SARS-CoV-2 immunity to to assist federal, provincial and territorial decision makers in their efforts to protect Canadians and minimize the consequences of COVID-19. The GTIC and its secretariat have worked closely with a range of partners, including governments, public health agencies, health organizations and research teams, and are engaging communities and stakeholders. To date, GTIC has funded more than 110 studies across the country that have provided critical insights into the levels, trends, nature, and duration of immunity resulting from SARS-CoV infection. – 2 and vaccination against COVID-19. The GTIC is overseen by a steering committee made up of volunteers, including leading national scientists and policy makers.

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