Category Archives: News

Respiratory Research News from the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and the RESP program of the RI-MUHC. View our latest funding results, faculty and trainee awards, and our research featured in the media.

Dr. Carolyn Baglole on the impact of legalization on cannabis research in Canada

The Future of Cannabis Research

Dr. Carolyn Baglole of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories talks about the future of cannabis research in Canada, and how legalization has had a positive impact in this field. Funding opportunities have increased considerably and barriers to research, such as access to different cannabis products, have diminished. Stigmas surrounding medical cannabis continue to exist, but the future of cannabis research in Canada is evident.

Julie Quenneville, President of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation, recently spoke to Dr. Baglole on CJAD as part of the Health Matters series.

The future of cannabis research

On this week’s Health Matters: We’re two years into the legalization of cannabis in Canada. Dr. Carolyn Baglole discusses the existing stigmas surrounding medical cannabis and one patient shares how cannabis is helping her manage her chronic pain.Also this week, Gaëlle Vuillaume shares her personal reasons for raising funds for breast cancer research and shaving her head. And Dr. Sarkis Meterissian details where your donations go and how they help breast cancer patients.Where to listen:Web:

Posted by Fondation CUSM – MUHC Foundation on Friday, October 16, 2020
COVID-19 testing strategy shortens isolation time for essential health care workers. Dr. Benjamin Smith MI4 COVID-19 funded project at the RI-MUHC

COVID-19 testing shortens isolation time

We all know that 14 days of self-isolation is mandatory following exposure to the coronavirus, and this is a big problem when frontline health care workers come in close contact with infected patients. To avoid a shortage of essential medical staff, MI4 scientist Dr. Benjamin Smith is studying whether this isolation period could be shortened by as much as half. In this ongoing study, he is working with health care workers exposed to the coronavirus to find out. Each subject receives a COVID-19 test on days 7, 9, 10 and 14 after being exposed to determine how soon the virus can be detected. Preliminary results show that if the subject is going to develop COVID-19, the virus is usually detectable by day 7. Though further study is required to confirm this finding, it signals that, with the right testing strategy, isolation for health care workers may indeed be able to be reduced by half.

Dr. Smith is now expanding his study to confirm these preliminary results. The team is enrolling health care workers in the Lanaudière region and will now include family members and caregivers exposed to the coronavirus when caring for loved ones.

Julie Quenneville, President of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation, expresses her thanks for donations made to the MUHC Foundation and offers insight into the impact of the donations.

Health Matters October 11th

Catch up on today's episode of Health Matters on CJAD 800 Montreal. Dr. Benjamin Smith discusses his latest study which he hopes will be a game changer for COVID-19 quarantines. We also chat about training health care teams for the future with Dr. Elene Khalil and CAE’s Marc Parent, and epidemiologist Dr. Nicole Basta explains how she's tracking COVID vaccine development in real time. Where to listen 🎧Web:

Posted by Fondation CUSM – MUHC Foundation on Thursday, October 8, 2020

Mclean's Magazine names McGill as Canada's top Medical Doctoral University for 2021

McGill top medical doctoral university 2021

For the 16th straight year, Maclean’s Magazine has named McGill University Canada’s top medical doctoral university.

Maclean’s highlighted McGill’s rigorous research regimen, including COVID-19 research, with 40% of its campus dedicated to this activity. Also noted are McGill’s sustainability efforts, campus diversity (30% international students), and student wellness initiatives.

“McGill has made a name for itself as a juggernaut on the research circuit; it has a well-earned international reputation for its faculty’s and students’ trailblazing discoveries,”

Maclean’s Katie Underwood

In August McGill was rated 78th, up 12 places, in the Academic Ranking of World Universities. In June the University moved up 4 places in the QS World University Rankings and it was up 3 places in the Center for World University Rankings.

Read the article Canada’s Top Medical Doctoral University 2021: McGill in Mclean’s Magazine.

Increase in rate of allergic asthma

Allergic Disease on the Rise

McGill Health e-News reports that allergic diseases are on the rise. Specifically, allergic asthma in children, which has become the number one chronic illness in Canada. It is also a major cause of children being hospitalized. Dr. Irah King, of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, is a co-author on a recent Nature Immunology publication on the topic. Understanding the increasing rate of allergic asthma is the first step towards preventing or finding a cure.

The leading theory is known as “The Hygiene Hypothesis” – that due to regular use of antibiotics and disinfectants, people are less exposed to microorganisms that would normally train our immune system to be more tolerant. To exacerbate the lowered immune response, our exposure to substances in our environment, such as surfactants in detergent, may induce cell death. These compounds are harmful to barrier surfaces such as the intestines and lungs and may additionally prime our immune system to generate allergic, type-2 responses. 

Read about the study:

Schneider C, Shen C, Gopal AA, Douglas T, Forestell B, Kauffman KD, Rogers D, Artusa P, Zhang Q, Jing H, Freeman AF, Barber DL, King IL, Saleh M, Wiseman PW, Su HC, Mandl JN. Migration-induced cell shattering due to DOCK8 deficiency causes a type 2–biased helper T cell response. Nat Immunol. 2020 Oct 5. doi: 10.1038/s41590-020-0795-1.

sleep apnea treatment reduces heart problems in patients with prediabetes Pamidi RI-MUHC

Sleep apnea treatment reduces heart problems in patients with prediabetes

Dr. Sushmita Pamidi’s new study found that people with prediabetes and obstructive sleep apnea could reduce their daytime resting heart rate and risk of cardiovascular disease by using a CPAP machine at night.

The discovery could potentially help the one billion people worldwide with obstructive sleep apnea, in which the prevalence of prediabetes and diabetes is over 60 per cent. Furthermore, the vast majority of patients with obstructive sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

The study’s findings are especially timely, given that people with diabetes or cardiovascular problems are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Potentially improving heart health by treating undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea in a population that is already at higher risk of cardiovascular disease is important,” … “This study is the first to examine the impact of optimal CPAP treatment on daytime resting heart rate,”

– Sushmita Pamidi

In their earlier research, Dr. Pamidi and Dr. Tasali found that effective treatment of sleep apnea with SPAP improves blood sugar levels in pre-diabetic patients, reducing their risk of diabetes.

Dr. Sushmita is an Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, Associate Director of the RI-MUHC RESP Program, and Director of the Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit at McGill University.

Read about the study:

Pamidi S, Chapotot F, Wroblewski K, Whitmore H, Polonsky T, Tasali E. Optimal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Reduces Daytime Resting Heart Rate in Prediabetes: A Randomized Controlled Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2020 Oct 1:e016871. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.120.016871. Online ahead of print.

Read more:

Narrow focus on vaccines COVID-19 Jean Bourbeau clinical trial

Narrow focus on COVID vaccines

Dr. Jean Bourbeau contributed to an article in The Star on September 29, 2020. He highlights how our narrow focus on vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic is a risk we cannot afford. Combating this virus requires an array of good treatments, based on good science (randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials). This include antivirals, plasma trials, corticosteroids, repurposing of old drugs to address the virus, in addition to vaccines. Dr. Bourbeau is working on a Phase III clinical trial of a repurposed generic drug developed by Pulmonem, a Canadian biotech start-up, which could provide a quick, safe and cost-effective treatment for COVID-19.

Read the article here:

Narrow focus on vaccines is a risk we can’t afford. The Star. by Dr. Jean Bourbeau. Sept 29, 2020.

Learn more about Dr. Bourbeau’s Phase III clinical trial:

Old drug, new therapy: RI-MUHC-sponsored phase III clinical trial ready to test repurposed dapsone to tone down lung inflammation caused by COVID-19.

RI-MUHC clinical trial COVID-19: clinical trial of ciclesonide to possibly prevent mild cases of COVID-19 from worsening

Ciclesonide Clinical Trial for COVID-19

Led by Dr. Nicole Ezer, a team of RI-MUHC researchers have initiated a clinical trial of ciclesonide to possibly prevent mild cases of COVID-19 from worsening.

Ciclesonide is an inhaled and nasal steroid drug currently used for asthma and nasal rhinitis. Laboratory studies have already shown that treatment with ciclesonide can decrease viral replication of SARS-Cov2, the virus responsible for the disease. This placebo-controlled randomized trial will confirm if the administration of inhaled and nasal ciclesonide can reduce the severity of respiratory symptoms among mild cases of COVID-19 and potentially avoid the need for hospitalization and oxygen.

Diagnosed with COVID? Contain COVID at the source. Protect your lungs! Register for a clinical trial of inhaled ciclesonide:

To learn more about the study:
please visit or email

“We know the COVID-19 virus starts by multiplying in the nose and progresses downwards to the lower parts of the airways and lungs. We hope that targeting the site of viral replication with inhaled and nasal ciclesonide will reduce early viral replication and decrease severity of COVID-19 illness,”

– Nicole Ezer

Team Members

  • Nicole Ezer, Respirologist, MD, MPH
  • James Martin, Respirologist, MD, Dsc
  • Todd Lee, Infectious Diseases, MD Msc
  • Emily Macdonald, Internal Medicine, MD, Msc
  • Susan Bartlett, Clinical Psychologist, Senior Scientist
  • Andrea Benedetti, Epidemiology and Biostatistics PHD
  • Annie-Claude Jalbert, MD
  • Rola Hamed, MsC
  • Ankita Ghatak, MSc Candidate
  • Ben Smith, Respirologist, MD, Msc

Read more

Congratulations to Sabah Hussain, Kevin Schwartzman, and Jean Bourbeau on their Spring 2020 CIHR Project Grants

Three CIHR Project Grants Awarded!

Congratulations to all Meakins and RECRU members who were funded in the Spring 2020 Project Grant Competition! Congratulations to ALL!

Sabah Hussain. Co-investigators: Gilles Gouspillou, Marco Sandri. Title: MYTHO: An uncharacterized FoxO-dependent gene that controls autophagy and skeletal muscle mass.

Jean Bourbeau, Sébastien Gagnon. Co-investigators: Rebecca Colman, James Downar, Dennis Jensen, Hayley Lewthwaite, Bryan Ross. Title: Sublingual Fentanyl for acute relief of breathlessness in patients with advanced COPD : A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design trial.

Kevin Schwartzman, James Johnston. Title: Tuberculosis in Canada: Modeling to Inform Elimination. Ranked 2nd in the Public, Community & Population Health.

Impact of poor air quality from wildfire smoke

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Dr. Jean Bourbeau speaks to the impact of poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke currently blanketing parts of British Columbia. The impact of poor air quality could last much longer than the actual smoke. The fine particulate matter from these forest fires has a significant impact on the health of everyone exposed. While it is important to understand the short term impact of this smoke, it is equally important to examine the long term impact on health. We do not know the impact of smoke exposure on the development of diseases, nor do we really know its impact on the progression of an underlying disease.

On ne connaît pas quels sont les risques de la fumée sur le développement de maladies ou même sur la progression plus rapide d’une maladie existante, explique le spécialiste.

– Jean Bourbeau

Read more:

Radio-Canada: L’impact de la mauvaise qualité de l’air pourrait durer plus longtemps que la fumée. by Hélène Bardeau.

Dr. Jean Bourbeau is a Scientist at the RI-MUHC RESP Program, member of the RECRU, and an Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

Systematic testing of groups at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2: an affordable and reasonable approach. Dr. Dick Menzies (centre) is a senior scientist in the Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases Program at the RI-MUHC. Jonathon Campbell, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the RI-MUHC.

Systematic testing for SARS-CoV-2

In a new cost-analysis study, researchers recommend widespread SARS-CoV-2 testing of priority groups, including healthcare workers, school students and staff, and essential services employees. The study was led by Dr. Jonathon Campbell, postdoctoral Fellow and Dr. Dick Menzies, senior scientist in the Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases Program at the RI-MUHC.

“We believe that a strategy of actively testing large population groups who are at increased risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 is feasible and affordable in Canada. This testing approach should be an integral component of a broad strategy to allow all Canadians to return safely to work and school,”

The benefit of widespread testing would be detection and isolation of asymptomatic people infected with SARS-CoV-2. This could prevent community transmission, which otherwise could result in a second wave, and a second shutdown.

Read more:

About the publication

Active testing of groups at increased risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 in Canada: costs and human resource needs. Campbell JR, Uppal A, Oxlade O, Fregonese F, Bastos ML, Lan Z, Law S, Oh CE, Russell WA, Sulis G, Winters N, Yanes-Lane M, Brisson M, Laszlo S, Evans TG, Menzies D. CMAJ. 2020 Sep 9:cmaj.201128.