COVID-19 study looking into why virus was more severe in long-term care homes

MONTREAL – Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) is backing a multi-million dollar study hoping to learn why the virus has such a severe impact on the country’s long-term care homes.

The $2.7-million study involves researchers from McGill University, Université de Montréal, Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Douglas Research Centre, and Concordia University.

Teams will be looking at the factors the put each person at risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms and medical complications that may lead to a fatal disease.

“We still do not understand why some long-term care residents have gotten so sick and died of COVID-19, whereas others, at the same facility, have had milder versions of the disease or have not been infected at all,” said M.D. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease and immunity expert, in a release.

“Our study brings together immunological, biochemical, and psychosocial expertise to identify key factors that determine severe COVID-19 symptoms and complications in the elderly. If we can identify elderly people at greater risk of developing medical complications from COVID-19, it can guide better infection control measures and prioritize medical care to increase the chance that these people will have better treatment outcomes. The hope is to help avoid unnecessary hospitalization and in so doing, reduce the use of health care resources.”

Researchers are now looking to recruit 850 participants in long-term care facilities in Quebec. They’ll take blood samples of people who contracted the virus, whether it was a mild, moderate, or severe infection.

One of the teams will see if there are any measurable indicators associated with high blood pressure and coagulation dysfunction that could predict a more severe COVID-19 case.

Results could help inform treatments to prevent complications in people who catch the virus.

“COVID-19 has been catastrophic among the elderly in long-term care facilities and studies like this one are needed so that we can better protect them going forward,” said Dr. Catherine Hankins, CITF Co-Chair.

“Vaccines will help to make an enormous difference in protecting Canadians from COVID-19.”

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