If Héma-Québec is mainly focused on the greater Montreal area up to now, it is because the COVID-19 has struck much stronger than elsewhere.
June 8, 2020 19: 02
COVID-19: Héma-Québec seeks antibodies in the blood of its donors
Quebec will start serological studies in June, confirmed Monday the national director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda. At Héma-Québec, we have already begun to collect samples from blood donors in order to measure the share of the population that has been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2. The organization has concentrated its sampling in the greater metropolitan region over the past two weeks, but plan to analyze also the blood of donors from other regions, including Quebec, by the end of the month.
The samples collected by Héma-Québec are at blood drives already planned, says in the interview, the vice-president, medical affairs and innovation of the organization, Dr. Marc Germain.
“We are nearly halfway to our goal of approximately 7,000 donations. We are not doing anything different in terms of collection to the extent where, for each donation of blood, it is already testing for a package of diseases transmissible by transfusion. There was sufficient sample remaining to also do the antibody test” to the coronavirus, ” he says.
If Héma-Québec is mainly focused on the greater Montreal area up to now, it is because the COVID-19 has struck much stronger than elsewhere, says the doctor. “In the coming weeks, we will sample a little more in the region, including the region of Québec,” he predicts.
Héma-Québec does not make public in advance the dates and places of the tests “in order to avoid biases in the study”.
“The goal is to have a representative sample of the general population. Blood donors are fairly representative of the general population [except children, because Héma-Québec does not collect blood in children, no more than it takes in the 70 years and older during the pandemic], but it is sure that if people think they have had the virus and they decide to go give blood to get tested, it’s just corrupt to the study,” explains the doctor.
Dr. Marc Germain does not expect that the proportion of the quebec population that has been infected with the coronavirus to exceed 10 %. “It is expected that it hovers around 5 %”, as in Holland, which has also been made of the serological tests among its blood donors.
“The interest of the study, this is not to do it only once, it is to be repeated as and to the extent that the pandemic will progress to see how the immune status of the population is progressing in a wave to the other,” he explains.
According to Dr. Germain, the collection of samples should be completed by the end of the month of June. “The testing [analysis] will begin as early as next week, and I expect that we start to have results in mid-July”, avance-t-il.
It should be noted that Héma-Québec uses a test ‘home’ for the hiv sero-prevalence studies that made it to the account of the public health.
“This is a test that has been developed in collaboration with the public health. Using a test house because it allows us to start more quickly [the studies]. The commercial kits, they may be approved by Health Canada, but it is necessary to buy the machines, buy the reagents, the find, these reagents, because they are very much in demand… It was feared that to wait for a commercial kit approved by Health Canada put us too far in time to have results,” says Dr. Germain, while ensuring that the performance of the kit house will be evaluated and compared to that of commercial kits.
Quebec will also serologic studies
During the press newspaper of the government, on Monday, the national director of public health has indicated that serological studies will start in Quebec this month, without however specifying the date.
“It’s going to be done by targeted sampling that will be representative,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, adding that the tests will be “probably be made in several areas to verify the circulation [of the virus] that there has been”.
Up to now, three kits, serology have obtained the permission of Health Canada, or those of companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Diasorin and Roche Diagnostics.
“Small quantities of these kits have been ordered for validation purposes by different laboratories of the network of health and social services”, explains by e-mail, a spokesman for the ministry of Health, Marie-Hélène Émond.
The ministry is still not able to say when exactly the serological studies may begin, not more than it has targeted the customer that will be tested.