Largest study on COVID-19 in Canadian youth underway

Vast majority of cases among youth have been mild or asymptomatic, and with reduction in routine COVID-19 lab testing infection rates remain largely unknown.

A new study led by the Université de Montréal and CHU Sainte-Justine, will collect and test about 7,200 blood samples over the coming year to check for past infection and immunity in Canadian children and teenagers.

In Canada, the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in the 0-to-18 age group have been mild or asymptomatic, and with the reduction in routine COVID-19 lab testing across the country, infection rates in children and adolescents remain largely unknown.

To address the knowledge gap, the Canadian government and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are providing $2.6 million to conduct the largest serosurvey of Canadian children and youth to date for SARS-CoV-2.

Led by Drs. Soren Gantt and Caroline Quach-Thanh, investigators at CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre and professors at Université de Montréal, the CURNLS study involves testing existing blood samples from patients 0-18 who visit emergency departments across Canada with the goal of identifying whether they’ve had COVID-19 and whether they have immunity from infection or vaccination, says Gantt. “We will combine this information with rates of transmission, hospitalization, vaccination, and use of public health measures to inform public health policy.”

Five times over the coming year, samples will be obtained, tested and analyzed according to three distinct age groups within the 0-to-18 range.

By testing for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the researchers have several goals, added Quach-Thanh. “We aim to determine the rates of seropositivity due to infection and vaccination, the differences in seroprevalence among children of different ages and from different regions of Canada, and the associations between serologic measures and trends of viral transmission and vaccination rates.”

The CURNLS study benefits from the network of the existing POPCORN project over eight provinces (Pediatric Outcomes Improvement through Coordination of Research Networks) and is short for ‘COVID-19 seroepidemiology among children Using Retrieved POPCORN Site Leftover blood samples.’

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