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UM part of national study on COVID-19 antibodies in older adults

October 1, 2020 — 

A $4-million investment from Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force will launch a national study to investigate the burden of SARS-CoV-2 infection among aging Canadians, a population that has been shown to be at greatest risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 disease. 

The study will be carried out by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), a national platform for research on aging led by McMaster University and involving academic and hospital research sites across the country, including the University of Manitoba. Dr. Verena Menec in community health sciences at the UM Max Rady College of Medicine is the Manitoba lead for the study.

“As the Manitoba site lead, I am thankful for all the Manitobans that participate in CLSA,” says Dr. Verena Menec. “I hope that they will also participate in this important part of the study, and by doing so, will help to contribute to our understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to better deal with it.”

The CLSA’s COVID-19 Seroprevalence Study will collect and analyze blood samples from more than 19,000 CLSA participants in 10 provinces. In addition to providing blood samples, the CLSA’s study participants will complete a questionnaire that collects information on symptoms, risks factors, health-care use, and the psychosocial and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Linking the results about the presence of antibodies and other immune markers obtained from the blood sample analyses to the CLSA’s questionnaire findings will paint a more comprehensive picture of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 and the impact of COVID-19 among older adults in Canada.

“By building on the CLSA’s extensive data collection and infrastructure, the study’s two-pronged approach will allow us to estimate the levels of immunity among older Canadians and give us a deeper understanding of some of the factors that affect their experience of the disease,” said Dr. Parminder Raina at McMaster University, the scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging.

“Protecting individuals at high risk of severe outcomes, including aging Canadians, is a top priority in our ongoing management of COVID-19 in Canada,” said Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. “Older individuals are at risk of more severe illness due to their age and other underlying medical conditions. Improving our understanding of immunity among high-risk populations will allow us to plan and target our public health approaches.”

The CLSA is the most comprehensive platform for research on aging in Canada, collecting longitudinal data from more than 50,000 participants at recruitment, for 20 years. Linking the findings from the CLSA COVID-19 antibody study to pre-pandemic and post-pandemic CLSA data and biomarkers will allow for a comprehensive picture of the experiences of older adults in Canada during the coronavirus pandemic.

Funding for the CLSA research platform has been provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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