Queen's University researchers looks to understand COVID-19 transmission on campus
OTTAWA -- A new study at Queen's University is researching COVID-19 transmission and immunity on university campuses.
Researchers say the unique situation for Queen's medical students returning to campus from cities around the world was a perfect opportunity to test them for the virus, for antibodies, and what that means for immunity.
Dr. Anne Ellis said they have recruited 500 volunteer students from the Faculty of Health Sciences, who are not showing any symptoms.
"We're checking them for the virus, we're checking them for antibodies to the virus," said Ellis during an interview with CTV News Ottawa.
Second year medical student Gursharan Sohi is participating in the study.
"It just would just require blood draw and a nasal swab every few weeks at staggered intervals," Sohi explained. "It's been ongoing I think I’ve had about five appointments in the last few months."
She said it was an easy decision to join.
"There's all sorts of things we don’t know about COVID-19," she explained.
Ellis said they hope to follow infection rates, but the research covers a wide range of topics.
"We really want to understand the longevity of the antibodies, we also want to understand the role of asymptomatic testing and how helpful and reassuring that can be," she explained. "But we also wanted to understand the mental health impact on these students."
Sohi said she has to answer a number of questions on a routine bases, including her travel history and who she’s interacted with. The information will then be shared with local public health officials.
"I think it’s really important to be really transparent when we’re filling this study because it’s not like they’re trying to catch you off guard doing something wrong, but they just want accurate data."
The student's mental health through COVID-19 will also be evaluated. Researchers say they want to evaluate the student’s degree of anxiety and their coping mechanisms, and how it connects to whether or not they've contracted COVID-19.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has radically shifted the post-secondary educational landscape and many institutions are grappling with decisions about students' safety returning to campus and about how to protect their physical and mental wellbeing," says Dr. Allison McGeer, CITF Leadership Group member and Professor at the University of Toronto. "Although in wave one, university students, faculty, and staff were not among the most affected populations, these younger age groups have seen a significant spike in cases in several areas of the country over the course of wave two. We need studies giving us more data, and these studies will do it."
Sohi said, as a medical student, she’s excited to be part of the research.
"Even though it's a small contribution I think it's important. I think it'll help weave a much greater picture of what COVID-19 looks like."