A biobank in quebec in order to better fight the COVID-19

Une biobanque québécoise pour mieux lutter contre la COVID-19

Photo: Chris Granger-The Associated Press
All patients hospitalized for the COVID-19 in the 9 participating institutions can give their blood to the biobank.

A month ago, was created without fanfare the Biobank quebec COVID-19, which collects blood samples from people who have had a test screening of the COVID-19. The provincial bank of biological tissues and clinical data will enable scientists to conduct various research projects aimed at elucidating the genetic factors that predispose some patients to suffer from a more severe form of the disease, and to study the antibodies that the patients cured have developed.

The establishment of this biobank dedicated to the study of the COVID-19 was made in a record time. Up to now, nine hospital institutions have agreed to participate : the jewish general Hospital, the CHUM, the CHU Sainte-Justine’s hospital, the MUHC, the university hospital of Sherbrooke, the IUCPQ, the CHU de Québec and the Hospital in Chicoutimi.

All patients hospitalized in these facilities who have undergone a test to diagnose the COVID-19, no matter what the result of their test turned out positive or negative, can give their blood to the biobank. “Some patients have been able to come to the hospital with symptoms similar to those of the COVID-19, but have been declared negative, their contribution is also important for research,” says Simon Rousseau, co-director of the biobank.

“Given the current situation, which is very special, we could not send our research staff at the bedside of the patient to obtain their consent, collect blood samples and information about their state of health due to risks of contamination which would require that we use the material for additional protection. It has therefore had to adapt our usual procedures to this reality. After a good discussion with the clinical teams who are in a huge pressure at this time, several intensivists have been convinced [of the relevance of the project] and have enlisted clinicians and nurses for collecting samples, ” said Dr. Rousseau.

“The consent procedure is different from what is normally done, because we can not introduce pencil and paper in the rooms of the sick. The consent is done orally and is saved. Patients will be recontacted at the time of hospital discharge to obtain their written consent that they will be able to return to us. We arrived at this type of consent that meets ethical standards and legal thanks to a good collaboration between the ethics committees, clinical teams, biobank and research “, says the researcher.

In order not to consume more resources, taking blood samples for the biobank are carried out if the patient has already needed a blood test due to clinical reasons. On this occasion, two or four tubes of blood are collected at three different times during their hospital stay (on days 0, 2 and 7) for the bank.

The responsible of the biobank have also obtained additional hospital facilities, access to clinical data of the participants. Then, while the biological samples are stored in the participating institutions, the clinical information is collected in a central database.

“The biobank is first and foremost a service we offer to the researchers who would need these samples for their research project. However, we began to receive inquiries from researchers even before they have collected the first samples ! , “says Mr. Rousseau.

The research topics that will allow the bank are numerous. One of the tubes of blood to be given to the analysis of the genome of the patient, in order to identify the genetic variants that make some people more likely to develop severe complications following infection. Another tube of blood can be used to study the neutralizing antibodies, i.e. their number and their stability in time, as the participants will be contacted again three and six months later. Other samples to see how the levels of certain mediators of inflammation influence the development of the disease. “If higher levels are associated with a less favorable prognosis, one could consider the use of drugs, or biological agents that already exist that allow you to block these mediators or at least minimize, their action “, said Mr. Rousseau.

Given that a significant number of infected persons suffer from a chronic disease and take medication to treat this disease, some of the samples will clarify the influence of this comorbidity or of these drugs on the outcome of the infection. Yet other researchers would like to study in more detail the effect of the COVID-19 on the pregnant woman and the child who will be born.

“The Biobank adheres to the movement of ‘open science’, which provides for the sharing of data, points out Simon Rousseau. We have entered into our management framework as one of the conditions of use of the biological material and clinical data of the bank in order to promote a quick search, open and accessible to all researchers. The Fonds de la recherche du Québec en santé (FRQS), and Genome Quebec who fund the bank are important that we share the results, even before their publication, to ensure that the research progresses more rapidly. “

At the end of last week, the biobank had already collected samples from more than 200 participants. And the team of the biobank is continuing with its efforts to recruit other hospital centres in Quebec.

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