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.

Montreal-area hospitals have almost reached capacity

COVID-19 situation in the ICU is critical

As the number of hospitalizations with COVID-19 patients increases into January 2021, Dr. Peter Goldberg discusses how the MUHC is planning to operationalize a potential increase in patients. These are some of the logistical and emotional choices Montreal area hospitals may have to face in the coming weeks.

Interviews with Dr. Goldberg on the status of Montreal hospitals, and what happens next:

Who will be most affected by COVID-19?

A related post from November 2020:

We are months into the second wave of COVID-19 yet healthcare workers remain unable to predict who will get sick from the virus and who will not. Neither the severity of a patient’s symptoms, nor their age, forecast the ultimate outcome. Nor does the existence of a pre-existing medical condition dictate how things will end. The truth is, healthcare teams do not know who will be most affected by COVID-19. In a recent interview, Dr. Peter Goldberg, associate member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and researcher in the RESP Program of the RI-MUHC, expresses his frustration at his inability to save someone who is too young, too alive, to die:

“it was like a forest fire, and all I had was a garden hose.”

Dr. Goldberg

Even patients seemingly on the mend can take a sudden turn for the worse and experience a rapid decline. Suddenly their life is in jeopardy. Physicians must be ready to respond quickly when this happens, but when not successful they are left to watch their patients pass on without the support of their family or friends.

“If there is anything more distressing than seeing someone die, it is seeing them die alone, or a nurse holding up a phone on Zoom or Skype so that family members can watch this,”

Dr. Goldberg

Canada’s case fatality rate is high amongst peer countries, but it is suggested that the trend could be due to testing: in Canada, testing has focused on individuals with symptoms and at-risk individuals, rather than the entire population. Regardless of testing, as the number of people with severe symptoms require hospitalization increases, hospitals become overloaded and physicians are faced with difficult decisions. Reflecting back on the spring and how the hospitals quickly filled up, Dr. Goldberg recalls having “very disturbing” conversations with hospital ethicists, and he sincerely hopes not to find himself in a similar position this time around:

“I don’t think the community knows that these conversations are going on. We’re talking about them — we’re not talking about something esoteric about ourselves. We’re talking about how ICUs, if we reach the limitation of our capacity to treat COVID patients, then we’re going to have to make decisions about who gets the bed.”

Dr. Peter Goldberg

Dr. Goldberg speaks of fighting this virus from a physician’s perspective, and the difficulty to predict who will be most affected by COVID-19, in his interview with Sharon Kirkley of the National Post.

The interview with Dr. Goldberg can be read here:

COVID-19 testing: Saliva vs Nasopharyngeal Swabs

Saliva Swabs are Just as Effective

A study co-authored by Dr. Dick Menzies, Senior Scientist in the RESP Program at the RI-MUHC and Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, reveals that saliva swabs are just as effective at detecting the COVID-19 virus as are nasopharyngeal swabs, but at a fraction of the cost and none of the discomfort.

Saliva swabs are just as effective and they can be self-collected. Thus, the expense of setting up and operating testing sites would be eliminated along with the cost of healthcare and other workers at those sites and the protective equipment required by those workers. Exposure of these workers to the virus would be eliminated and health professionals would be available to assist in other areas of healthcare.

“With over 75,000 tests being done per day in Canada, replacing nasopharyngeal swabs with saliva-based sampling methods would save half a million dollars every day,” 

Dr. Dick Menzies

Dr. Menzies and his team of researchers have discovered a win-win alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs. How soon can this new practice be implemented?

Read more about the study and the interview with Dr. Menzies:

Marc Tewfik and olfactory training if you lose your sense of smell or taste after COVID-19

Olfactory training after COVID-19

Dr. Marc Tewfik explains how olfactory training can be done at home if COVID-19 has stolen your sense of smell. Dr. Tewfik is an Associate Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at McGill University and an Investigator with the RI-MUHC RESP Program.

In a recent interview with CBC News, he discusses that up to 20% of people who lost their sense of smell after testing positive for COVID-19 don’t seem to recover their sense of smell or taste. He explains the importance of our sense of smell, and how olfactory training might work for some.

Olfactory training is easy and can be done at home. It involves smelling natural ingredients in jars twice a day for several months to help stimulate the nerve cells in the nose to regenerate.

Read the full article and interview here:

Has COVID-19 stolen your sense of smell? MUHC doctor suggests method to coax it back. CBC News Montreal. January 8, 2021

Launch of the Margaret Becklake Fellowship

DETAILS ABOUT THE DR. MARGARET BECKLAKE FELLOWSHIP

DR. MARGARET BECKLAKE: A PIONEERING LEADER IN RESPIRATORY MEDICINE

The Montreal Chest Institute Foundation is proud to honour Dr. Becklake’s legacy and immense contribution in developing generations of respiratory clinicians and researchers by launching the Dr. Margaret Becklake Fellowship. This fellowship will be awarded to at least one trainee in respiratory research every year and will pay her or his salary as s/he conducts research under the supervision of scientists at the Montreal Chest Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

Recipients will be chosen from low- and middle-income countries as well as from Canadian Indigenous communities. Over the course of her career, Dr. Becklake had a major interest in respiratory health in lower-income countries, including in childhood asthma and occupational lung disease. She conducted research in this area for many years. Dr. Becklake also trained and hosted students in respiratory research from lower-income countries, who then became leaders in research and care in those countries.

Help us train the next generation of researchers and specialists in areas of the world where the need is greatest. Help us share the expertise we have at the Montreal Chest Institute around the globe. Help us continue Dr. Becklake’s legacy.

Dr. Margaret Becklake immigrated to Montreal in 1957 from South Africa. Her impact on respiratory care, research and teaching was profound. With other members of the McGill faculty, she worked on occupational lung disease, an interest she maintained from her early medical career in South Africa. She established the now well-known Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit at McGill and at the Montreal Chest Institute.

Dr. Becklake was renowned for her insistence upon the importance of a clearly stated, relevant research question and more generally for her clarity and insight. She was also unfailingly devoted to her patients and their families. The research unit she founded flourishes today, as it continues to emphasize respiratory research of direct relevance to patients and communities.

Read more here: https://mcifoundation.ca/dr-margaret-becklake-fellowship/

Nicole Ezer and the CONTAIN COVID-19 trial at the RI-MUHC with ciclesonide

COVID-19 contained with a nasal spray

Dr. Nicole Ezer is helping lead a trial with ciclesonide that promises to reduce symptoms of COVID-19. Read our initial posts about the trial here: Ciclesonide Clinical Trial for COVID-19 and ‘Contain COVID-19’ – in its earliest phases.

The Journal de Montreal reports the pursuits of our Quebec researchers and physicians in leading this trial. Ciclesonide has both anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Of the few trials testing ciclesonide, the one led here at the MUHC is the only one that is studying the administration of the drug by nasal spray and inhaler. Inhalers and sprays have the advantage of acting directly in the nose, the airways, and the lungs, right were the SARS-CoV-2 virus is actually replicating. The goal of the trial is to determine whether ciclesonide reduces respiratory symptoms and in turn reduces hospitalizations.

Dr. Ezer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University and a Junior Scientist with the RI-MUHC RESP Program.

To learn more about the trial or participate and the entire research team: www.contain-covid19.com/contenez-la-covid-19/  

Read the article:

COVID-19: un vaporisateur nasal en renfort. par Stéphanie Martin, Journal de Montréal. December 31, 2020.

Preliminary findings of Dr. Benjamin Smith's study suggest a shorter COVID-19 quarantine period may be possible for the future.

A shorter COVID-19 quarantine period

A RI-MUHC study led by Dr. Benjamin Smith suggests appropriate testing could bring the COVID-19 quarantine period down from 14 to 7 days. Healthcare workers who developed COVID-19 after they were advised to self-isolate following a high-risk SARS-CoV-2 exposure, were all detected by day 7. This means that a simple testing strategy may allow for the early detection of healthcare workers who will develop COVID-19 after a high-risk exposure.

Read More:

COVID-19 testing: Timing may be everything

The original post appeared November 2020:

It seems that a shorter COVID-19 quarantine period may be possible, thanks to the work of Dr. Benjamin Smith, MI4 scientist and member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories. Dr. Smith was primarily looking to ease the burden of this virus on the healthcare system. Healthcare workers are at the greatest risk of exposure while at work and yet their presence at work is crucial to handle an ever-increasing influx of COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Smith began by questioning the duration of the isolation period after exposure, 14 days, and looked to reduce that window. He developed a study, and is using healthcare workers exposed to the virus as his test subjects. Testing them using a variety of methods at varying time intervals throughout their isolation has given positive results.

“Our study suggests that a simple infection control strategy consisting of symptom-triggered testing from day 0 to 7, followed by a standard home-based test on day 7, detects all or nearly all healthcare workers who develop COVID-19 after high-risk exposure. It’s a promising result. If these findings are confirmed as we test a larger number of people, this testing strategy could significantly shorten the self-isolation duration required for healthcare workers,”

Dr. Benjamin Smith

The initial findings of his study indicate that the results of a nasopharyngeal swab and saliva test on the 7th day of quarantine will predict fairly accurately the likelihood of developing the virus in day 8-14. Continued positive results in this ongoing study will bring a great sense of relief to many. A shorter COVID-19 quarantine period will benefit more than just the intended healthcare workers. Other patients looking to access the healthcare system, travellers, society as a whole will feel a burden lifting in light of this news.

Read More:

  • The full article about Dr. Benjamin Smith’s study and the encouraging results can be read in the article COVID-19 testing: Timing may be everything, appearing in the November 18, 2020 edition of Health e-News. Photo credit: Owen Egan / Joni Dufour.
Dr. Simon Rousseau and Dr. Jean Bourbeau of the RESP Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC are recipients of QRHN 2020-2021 Project Grants

RESP researchers receive QRHN funding

Congratulations to the following RESP researchers for receiving 2020-2021 grants from the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Network.

  • Dr. Simon Rousseau – awarded a Team Projects grant for his project: “Impact of prior coticosteroids therapy for airway diseases on COVID-19 clinical trajectory”.
  • Dr. Jean Bourbeau – awarded a Priority Projects grant for his project: “Impact of the environment on the development and aggravation of obstructive and remodelling lung diseases”.

More about the Quebec Respiratory Health Research Network (QRHN).

The Montreal Children's Hospital Neonatal Unit will begin monitoring their patients using AI technology. Sant'Anna ICU

Monitoring Patients using AI Technology

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Guilherme Sant’Anna and his colleagues, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Neonatal Unit will soon be monitoring patients using AI technology. Dr. Sant’Anna is a Neonatologist at The Montreal Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor at McGill and RI-MUHC RESP Program member. It was approximately 15 years ago that he and his team of dedicated professionals began thinking of ways that their little patients could benefit from the ongoing advancements in technology.

“In our daily life, technology keeps improving, it goes so fast, that we said to ourselves that we needed something better for our patients,”

Dr. Sant’Anna

Thanks to funding of $1 million received from the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Neonatal Unit will be going ‘live’ with AI in possibly six months’ time. Once the system is up and running smoothly in that unit, the technology will be rolled out to other units in the hospital. Eventually, doctors will be monitoring patients using AI while their patients are at home.

Read more about the interview with Dr. Sant’Anna here:

Larry Lands and Laurent Pharmaceuticles to begin a clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus

LAU-7b clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment

The RI-MUHC is currently enrolling patients in RESOLUTION, a clinical trial of LAU-7b for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug acts on lung inflammation and showed potent antiviral effects in-vitro against SARS-CoV-2. Results from previous studies in adult CF patients showed an important reduction of key pro-inflammatory biomarkers at the onset of a pulmonary exacerbation episodes, suggestive of a protective effect of the drug on the lungs.

Read more here:

Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b

An original post from April 2020 described the start of the clinical trial:

Laurent Pharmaceuticals, a McGill spinoff, will run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus.

Larry Lands is the Chief Medical Advisor for Laurent Pharmaceuticals. Laurent Pharmaceuticals Inc. is planning to test its lead drug LAU-7b in patients with COVID-19 disease. LAU-7b was recently identified as a potential anti-viral therapeutic option for COVID-19 during a drug-library screening effort.

The Research Institute of the MUHC is presently enrolling participants in the study, called RESOLUTION. LAU-7b is a novel oral form of a drug called fenretinide, which inhibits the inflammatory reaction of the body to the virus. This study could lead to improved treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are at higher risk of developing complications.

“Thanks to its inflammation-controlling properties, low-dose fenretinide triggers a natural mechanism – the body’s own resolution of the inflammation process – which keeps the inflammatory response under control without suppressing its protective immune role.”

Dr. Larry Lands

Read more here:

McGill spinoff Laurent Pharmaceuticals to begin clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment. Company to run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus. By Junji Nishihata. McGill Reporter. April 11, 2020.

2020 Holiday E-Card Contest and Food Drive!!!!

Dear Meakins Christie members:

On behalf of our trainees and fellows, and of course SpIrE, here are two socially-distanced Holiday Activities for everyone. We wish you all a safe and happy holiday!

FOOD DRIVE FOR THE WELCOME HALL MISSION

As we approach the end of this year and the holiday season hugs us, we are organizing a quick and short food-drive.

We want to invite you to donate any extra food and hygiene materials you have at home.

We are particularly looking for canned food, grains, pasta, or easily conserved things, and we will be returning the donations to the Welcome Hall Mission.

A box is placed near the Meakins admin area on level EM3. The box will remain there until the 8th of January.

We wish you the best holiday season and a happy new year.

BIORENDER E-CARD CONTEST

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating science-themed e-cards in BioRender!

Follow the link https://app.biorender.com/biorender-templates/figures/5de4fbc2311a7a00047949d0

Decorate a holiday e-Card and submit to Maria at maria.makroyanni@mcgill.ca for a chance to win a prize!

One e-card submission per lab and submit before December 22.

We wish you the best holiday season and a happy new year.”