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New study to determine how widespread COVID-19 antibody is among Canadians

How we’re helping improve understanding of COVID-19 in Canada

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June 18, 2020
Testing Hands

A new study provides donors with yet another reason to give blood — they’re helping create a strong foundation of evidence to support future health policy decisions surrounding COVID-19.

Canadian Blood Services has formed a research partnership with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force to determine the prevalence of the COVID-19 antibody in Canadians’ blood serum.

“When it comes to COVID-19, there are still a lot of unanswered questions,” says Dr. Chantale Pambrun, director of Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation. One of those questions is how many Canadians have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Canadian Blood Services is uniquely positioned to help provide data on the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in a large number of people across Canada relatively quickly,” says Dr. Pambrun.

“We have the infrastructure, experience and expertise to support this study. Canadian Blood Services already routinely tests blood donations, and we have an active research program that has undertaken seroprevalence work to guide policies in the past.”

The COVID-19 Immunity Task Force was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April, and its role is to collect blood tests from at least one million Canadians over the next two years. The seroprevalence study will capture data from Canadian blood donors, including those who may have only suffered a mild infection or were asymptomatic to COVID-19 and were eligible for donating blood.

Phase one of the study will happen in the coming weeks, when we’ll be testing about 37,000 previously collected samples. Canadian Blood Services anticipates there will be additional phases of testing to support the Immunity Task Force objectives. From each blood donation, after all standard safety testing is complete, a small sample will be set aside, anonymized and tested in our research facilities.

At this time, individual donors will not be informed of their antibody status. Unlike other testing Canadian Blood Services does, such as for HIV or hepatitis, a positive result to the COVID-19 antibody test would not result in the donor requiring medical attention. The antibody’s presence indicates that the individual has already successfully overcome the virus that causes COVID-19; however, it is not yet clear if it provides ongoing protection and for how long.

“The purpose of this study is to support the Government of Canada through the Immunity Task Force get a sense of how prevalent COVID-19 has been in the Canadian population,” says Dr. Pambrun.

“This is an opportunity for Canadian Blood Services and blood donors to contribute to the greater good, and create a strong foundation for evidence-informed decisions as we collectively navigate these unprecedented times.”

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