The following studies led by BC Children's Hospital and BC Women's Hospital researchers aim to improve diagnostics, as well as better understand the transmission of COVID-19 and the impact of genetics on risk factors. 

Click on the study titles below for more information. 

Tracking and characterizing natural immunity to SARS-CoV2 during COVID-19 pandemic

Theodore Steiner, Principal Investigator

There are major outstanding questions in how the immune response to Sars-CoV-2 evolves, and why outcomes are so good for some, and so devastating for others. Our work proposes to gain the first insight into how T cell meditated immunity might control these outcomes and why there are such strong sex-based differences. Understanding the natural history of these critical innate and adaptive immune functions is critical to identify patients at highest risk as well as for guiding the development of an optimal vaccine. There are many research questions that could be pursed using the samples collected from these subjects. Overall the results of this work will provide new information about the progress of the disease and potentially provide new immunological management to reduce the mortality/dissemination of the disease.

Validation of SARS-CoV-2 antibody assays in dried blood spots

David Goldfarb, Principal Investigator

This study will test dried blood spot (DBS) samples from various sources to evaluate and validate DBS anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody assays across multiple testing platforms.

Swab-to-PCR: Simple and Rapid Diagnosis of COVID-19 Using Extraction-Free Nucleic Acid Amplification

Peter Tilley, Principal Investigator

The primary aim of this project is to establish extraction-free qRT-PCR assays in the clinical laboratory at BC Children’s Hospital, using novel reverse transcriptase and Taq polymerase enzymes.

Proteome and metabolome modulation in COVID-19 patients

Philipp Lange, Principal Investigator

PURPOSE The goal of this study is to characterize the changes in the protein and metabolite composition of human cells and body fluids in response to an active or resolved infection with SARS-CoV-2 virus and its impact on the cellular physiology.

Understanding Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2 using Phage Display Immunoprecipitation Sequencing (PhIP-Seq)

Agatha N. Jassem, Principal Investigator

Valid serological tests are needed to profile the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the viral agent responsible for COVID19). However, these tests likely cross-react with other viruses that belong to the same family (i.e. other human coronaviruses). To understand the targets of these SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and their cross-reactivity towards other human coronaviruses, we will identify human coronavirus proteins that are found to bind to serum antibodies.

Pulmonary Imaging of Post-COVID-19 Recovery (ImPCR)

Don Sin, Principal Investigator

As more British Columbians become infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and recover, optimal care for these patients is uncertain due to a lack of information about disease pathophysiology and outcomes. A Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic (PCRC) has been established in Vancouver to evaluate clinical, physiologic, imaging and blood biomarker data towards developing an understanding of what impairments persist in survivors of COVID-19. Moreover, the PCRC is investigating what tests and treatment are required to address these ongoing challenges to patients’ health and related quality of life.

Respiratory Virus Exposures in Infants at High Risk of Respiratory Infections

Pascal Lavoie, Principal Investigator

The main objective is to study infants’ natural immunity to common respiratory viruses including respiratory throughout the winter season. The study measures antibody against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and common coronaviruses (causing common colds), influenza (causing flu) and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) before and after each winter seasons in infants under 2 years of age.

To learn more contact Dr. Pascal Lavoie at plavoie@bcchr.ca.

COVID Antibody Study

Pascal Lavoie, Principal Investigator

This study aims to: i) establish the antibody seroprevalence for SARS-CoV-2 in the greater Vancouver, ii) determine the proportion of individuals who have antibodies to other common human coronaviruses and iii) study the immune determinant of the response to COVID-19 and to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Learn more here

Tracking COVID-19 for Safer Schools

Pascal Lavoie, Principal Investigator

The main objective of this study is to determine the extent to which school workers can be exposed to COVID-19 as part of their occupation. Results of this study will be used to develop strategies to help make Canadian schools safer for everyone.

Learn more here

The SPRING Study: Severe acute resPiratory syndrome-Related coronavirus 2 prevalence In children and youNG adults in British Columbia: an observational study

Manish Sadarangani, Principal Investigator

Researchers at the Vaccine Evaluation Center would like to find out how many children and young adults in BC may have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that was identified in December 2019 which causes the infectious disease known as COVID-19). The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic due to the rapid increase in the number of cases globally. Many cases in children, as well as in adults, have been mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic (without symptoms). This study will help researchers better understand the rates of COVID-19 infection amongst children and youth in BC, which are currently unknown. This valuable information can help to guide policies and recommendations in BC for both work and school environment.

Learn more here

RNA-Seq in youths with COVID-19 (in development)

Pascal Lavoie, Principal Investigator

Immune correlates of COVID-19 severity: What can we learn from children and young adults?

Contrary to most other respiratory viral illnesses, older adults are over-represented in severe COVID-19 cases. Potential reasons include co-morbidities that increase with age (e.g. COPD hypertension, diabetes), viral (e.g. variants/load) or immune factors. Children and younger adults generally have mild disease and can propagate the virus well, but sometimes present severe COVID-19 in few cases. The independent contribution of immune factors is difficult to study in clinically heterogeneous adult populations with co-morbidities. We hypothesize that hyperinflammatory responses lead to more severe COVID-19 and that studying whole blood RNA-sequencing changes in otherwise healthy young adults (30 patients 2 to 40 years old with COVID-19) will help understand determinants of COVID-19 outcomes in older adults.

Saving young lives: Triage and management of sepsis in children using the point-of-care Paediatric Rapid Sepsis Trigger (PRST) tool

Mark Ansermino, Principal Investigator

Our original goal was to develop and validate a prediction model and to perform clinical validation of a digital trigger tool to guide triage and treatment of children at health facilities in LMICs with suspected sepsis. COVID-19 is an example of one of the organisms that has the potential to cause sepsis.

CARE COVID-19: Characterizing Antibody Response to Emerging COVID-19

Muhammad Morshed, Principal Investigator

To date, COVID-19 infection has been diagnosed solely through laboratory tests that detect viral RNA. These diagnostic tests reveal whether someone is currently infected but do not reveal critical information about the development of immunity, which requires analysis of the antibodies generated by the immune system after infection. More information is urgently needed about the development, duration, and strength of the antibody responses that lead to immunity following infection with SARS-CoV-2.

This project will evaluate four new commercial antibody detection platforms to identify suitable genomic tests, known as assays, to reliably detect different types of antibodies that can provide clues about immune response. These assays will be used to profile antibody production against SARS-CoV-2 in both newly infected and previously infected Health Care Workers (HCW) over three months. Findings will reveal how quickly HCW develop an immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and how robust this protection is against subsequent exposures they will likely encounter after recovery. This antibody data can be used to immediately inform guidelines for HCW at high risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, including return to work policies and front-line deployment strategies.

Secondary Household Attack Rate Evaluation of COVID-19 (SHARE-COVID)

Manish Sadarangani, Principal Investigator

The purpose of this study is to develop a better understanding of how COVID-19 infection spreads between people who live in the same household, including young children and household members who appear to be asymptomatic. We also hope to discover if there are biological differences between people who do become infected by someone else in the home, and people who do not become infected.

COVID-19 Antibody Responses in Cystic Fibrosis Patients: (CAR-CF) Study

Mark Chilvers, Principal Investigator

Although there have been few cases in persons with Cystic Fibrosis, the risk of Covid-19 in the CF population remains unknown.

It is important to know which CF patients do not have an antibody response to COVID-19 and are potentially susceptible to infection, thus requiring continued protective infection control practices. We also need to know whether Covid-19 infection leads to worsened pulmonary function in individuals with CF.

Host genetic factors underlying severe COVID-19

Catherine Biggs, Principal Investigtor

This study will investigate why ~5% of people infected with COVID-19 require critical care for severe disease (respiratory failure, hyperinflammatory response) while most experience minimal symptoms. We cannot identify who will develop severe disease, and the predisposing genetic factors are unknown.

We will combine next generation sequencing with functional characterization to achieve 2 objectives: 1) Genetics of COVID-19: determine what proportion of patients with severe COVID-19 have an underlying IEI and characterize the role of genetic factors in COVID-19 disease. 2) Targeted therapy: molecularly-targeted treatments (e.g., if patients with hyperinflammation have variants dysregulating JAK-STAT signaling, JAK inhibitors may be indicated).

Canadian Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pregnancy: Epidemiology and Maternal and Infant Outcomes

Deborah Money, Principal Investigator

Globally, there are significantly limited data on SARS-CoV-2 to inform recommendations for pregnant women and their care providers. This multi-provincial observational project serves to better understanding of COVID-19 in pregnancy, to increase understanding of the epidemiology of COVID-19 in pregnancy, and to provide critical data to inform recommendations for pregnant women and their infants. A pan-provincial approach is in progress with provincial data collection to be combined for a national dataset of cases of COVID-19 in pregnancy.

Objectives: 1. To determine the burden of SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy in Canada 2. To capture and report maternal outcomes, including degree of respiratory illness and requirement for hospitalization and/or ventilation support 3. To determine fetal and infant outcomes including evidence of transmission of maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection to the infant 4. To provide data to facilitate planning and support for COVID-19 affected pregnancies in the Canadian context 5. To contribute data to international collaborations, allowing for optimized international understanding of COVID-19 in pregnancy

The Impact of a Barrier Enclosure on Endotracheal Intubation Duration And First Pass Attempt – A Randomized Controlled Trial

Anton Chau, Principal Investigator

The purpose of this study is to assess the time to tracheal intubation (TTI) and first-pass success rate for attending anesthesiologists intubating with COVID-related modifications with or without the use of a COVID barrier box.

Tracheal intubation is a high-risk time point for attending anesthesiologists to contract COVID. This risk can be minimized by using a barrier enclosure, COVID barrier box covering a patient’s head and neck during intubation. It is crucial to estimate the intubation time and first pass success rate of using a COVID barrier box for introducing it to intubate critically ill COVID patients. The finding of this study can lead to a ground-breaking measure to minimize viral transmission to healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Germline analysis of patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus

Steven Jones, Principal Investigator

The purpose of this study is to generate complete genomic information for patients who have tested positive for a COVID-19 infection. This will allow the determination of any genetic determinants that influence the severity of the disease and the response to intervention. 

Objectives: To create a database of genetic variants that can be correlated with features of coronavirus infection and patient phenotype information.

COVID-19 Inflammatory Blood Biomarkers for Clinical Management, Prognosis and Evaluation of Interventions

Mypinder Sekhon and Cheryl Wellington, Principal Investigators

Purpose: 1) Determine the prevalence of a COVID-19 hyper-inflammatory "cytokine storm" phenotype in patients at Vancouver General Hospital 2) Determine any potential links between cytokine storm and ARDS in COVID-19 patients 3) Profile patients with mild and severe disease in an attempt to identify biomarkers that could be developed into a rapid test for triaging patients who require urgent care from those that will recover on their own 4) Elucidate the impact of genetic variation on clinical outcomes from COVID-19 5) Identify SARS-CoV-2 relevant RNAs 6) Determine the differences between the serum cytokine profile in COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure versus non-COVID respiratory failure ICU patients.

Canadian COVID-19 Human Host Genome Sequencing Databank

Steven Jones, Principal Investigator

Omics analysis of innate immunity in preterm infants in response to natural flu infection and influenza Vaccination

Pascal Lavoie, Principal Investigator

The main objective of this study is to study immune response to common respiratory viruses in infants using a "systems immunology" approach that allows to examine immune functions in an unbiased manner, using non-diagnostic specialized research (blood) tests.

Infants are at high risk of morbidity and mortality from common respiratory viruses. This risk is even higher in prematurely born infants. Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are the two main causes of severe Lower Respiratory Tract Infection (LRTI).

During the study period, SARS-CoV-2 became prevalent in Canada. At the same time that the number of COVID-19 cases increased in BC, we saw an increase in hospitalizations due to viral symptoms in our study population, nearing the end of the winter season. This is atypical and could be a result of infants being co-infected with the RSV or influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2, contributing to increased morbidity and hospitalization. By testing for COVID-19 in infants, we hope to find out the prevalence of COVID-19 in our cohort and determine whether COVID-19 has contributed to infant hospitalizations in BC due to viral symptoms.

To learn more contact Dr. Pascal Lavoie at plavoie@bcchr.ca.