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.

Getting ahead of the curve: A comprehensive COVID-19 testing strategy for Canada

Revising our COVID-19 Testing Strategy

In his article appearing in The Star on May 27, 2020, Dr. Dick Menzies explains how a significantly revised testing strategy for the COVID-19 virus would improve long-term outcomes across the country. He offers a convincing argument for changes which, at first glance may look excessive, but would ultimately lead to a flattening of the curve at overall lower cost to Canadians. Dr. Menzies’ ideas in detail can be read here.

Dr. Dick Menzies is a member of the RESP program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

Warriors at the MUHC

Staff at the MUHC have taken on new responsibilities to meet the evolving demands that COVID-19 is placing on healthcare workers, patients, and the medical system as a whole. Without hesitation, staff are taking on this additional work and meeting the challenge of remaining one step ahead of the virus. One such individual is Dr. Kevin Schwartzman, Director of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at the MUHC who, together with his colleagues, converted a research unit into one dedicated solely to the care of COVID-19 patients.

Read more about Dr. Schwartzman and the other MUHC Warriors here:

β-Glucan Induces Protective Trained Immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection: A Key Role for IL-1

Using β-glucan to help fight TB Infection

Congratulations to Dr. Nargis Khan and Dr. Eva Kaufmann, postdoctoral fellows with Dr. Maziar Divangahi for their latest Cell Reports publication. Their work shows that β-glucan induces protective trained immunity in human monocytes infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, as well as in mice infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Their work is paving the way for both prophylactic and therapeutic use of β-glucan in TB.

Some highlights from the article:

  • β-glucan induces protective trained immunity in human monocytes infected with Mtb
  • β-glucan induces protective trained immunity in mice infected with Mtb
  • β-glucan-mediated protection against Mtb is dependent on IL-1 signaling
  • β-glucan increases expansion of hematopoietic progenitors and myelopoiesis via IL-1

Read the entire paper here:

RAMQ should remove financial barriers to smoking-cessation

RAMQ: Remove Financial Barriers to Smoking-Cessation!

An opinion piece published by Sean Gilman in The Gazette on May 18, 2020, emphasizes the importance of increased RAMQ support for patients who require multiple courses of nicotine replacement therapy and other smoking cessation Rx. It reflects a letter to the health ministry prepared by Sean, Dr. Jean Bourbeau, and more than 100 other professionals, and is particularly meaningful during the current pandemic.

Dr. Bourbeau is an associate member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and a senior scientist in the RI-MUHC RESP Program. He brings many years of experience to his work, as do the other professionals working with him, giving considerable weight to their assertions.

Read the piece in more detail at:

Marc Tewfik joins the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research

Dr. Marc Tewfik joins the GCCR

Dr. Marc Tewfik, of the RI-MUHC RESP program, has joined forces with the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research. The focus of the GCCR is to investigate the relationship between COVID-19 and the chemical senses. Dr. Tewfik is also an associate member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and brings years of knowledge and experience to the group of 500+ transdisciplinary professionals in their quest to develop a worldwide survey to gain deeper knowledge of the COVID-19 virus and its effects on the body.

For further details, read the full article in the McGill Med e-News or visit the GCCR website.

Low rishk to primary students with asthma returning to school

Asthmatic Primary Students at School

With concern expressed by some parents about the planned opening of some schools in Quebec, Dr. Larry Lands speaks about the return to school for elementary school children with asthma, and how the risk of complications is low when asthma symptoms are well managed.

« Premièrement, à peu près 15% des enfants font de l’asthme, et la majorité est bien contrôlée. » « C’est bien important de prendre ses médicaments comme prescrit (…) ce n’est pas le moment de cesser, il faut continuer. »

« Considérant cela, la majorité, 90% des enfants (qui font de l’asthme) peuvent retourner à l’école. » « La science ne démontre pas que le fait d’avoir de l’asthme, comme tel, prédispose à une maladie plus sévère, surtout chez les enfants. Mais il y a certains asthmatiques qui ont une maladie plus grave, qu’on veut protéger pour l’instant.»

Listen here to the May 1st interview with Dr. Lands on TVA Nouvelles, or to read about their discussion.

The RI-MUHC evaluates the first UV-Disinfection Robot in Canada.

RI-MUHC evaluates UV-Disinfection Robot

According to a recent RI-MUHC press release, the first evaluation of a UV-Disinfection Robot in Canada is being carried out at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. The Robot is autonomous and mobile due to the robotics technology used. It could potentially reduce healthcare-associated infections and their consequences, including health complications, deaths and extra costs. Dr. Bruce Mazer, Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of the RI-MUHC (Interim), confirms:

“We ordered this robot as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging in China and Europe, with the objective to be first to evaluate this technology in Canada. An automated system can potentially improve patient safety, as well as protect hospital personnel. The robot was delivered at the RI-MUHC on Monday April 27, and will be tested in one patient room and one operating room at the RI-MUHC Centre for Innovative Medicine at the Glen site. We will also take this opportunity to assess if it can be used to disinfect stretchers and N-95 masks.”

The robot, manufactured in Denmark, is programmed to emit concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light onto infectious hotspots. The assessment will determine the potential value of the UVD robot technology compared to existing technologies using safety, efficacy, and effectiveness criteria.

FRQS Salary awards to meakins-christie, RECRU, and respiratory research members for 2020

2020-2021 FRQS Salary Awards

Congratulations to the following Meakins-Christie faculty, RECRU faculty, and RESP program members who received funding from the 2020-2021 FRQS Research Scholars and Clinical Research Scholars Salary Award Competition!

  • Carolyn Baglole – Programme de bourses de chercheur-boursier Senior – for her project entitled: Pathogenèse des maladies pulmonires environnementales : de mechanisms aux traitements. (4 year funding)
  • Sushmita Pamidi – Programme de bourses de chercheur-boursier Clinicien – Junior 2

COVID-19 funded projects by Meakins-Christie and RESP program members

COVID-19 Funded Grants and Projects

Congratulations to the Meakins-Christie and RESP program members who have received grants to study and fight COVID-19 and who are involved in collaborative research efforts.

MI4 Emergency COVID-19 Research Funding (Round 2).
View the full list of funded projects here:

  • Janusz Rak, Maziar Divangahi, Dongsic Choi: Exosomal Mimetics of COVID-19 as Viral Models and Therapeutics
  • Selena Sagan, Richard Menzies: Germicidal Ultraviolet Light to Disinfect Personal Protective Equipment to Reduce Nosocomial Transmission of COVID-19
  • Brett Thombs, Andrea Benedetti: Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Living Systematic Review of Symptom Levels, Factors Associated with Symptoms, and Intervention Effectiveness

MI4 Emergency COVID-19 Research Funding (Round 1).
View the full list of funded projects here:

  • Irah King: Targeting the gut microbiome to improve COVID-19 disease outcomes
  • John W. Hanrahan: Targeting coronavirus cation channels with antiviral drugs
  • Benjamin Smith: PCR-based testing to shorten self-isolation duration in COVID-19 exposed healthcare workers
  • Dick Menzies, Jonathon Campbell: Assessing costs and benefits of different testing strategies for COVID-19 in Canada
  • Brett Thombs, Linda Kwakkenbos, Andrea Benedetti, Susan Bartlett, John Varga, Scott Patten, Nicole Culos-Reed, Shannon Hebblethwaite: Mental health in an at-risk population during COVID-19: longitudinal study of risk factors and outcomes and embedded trial of an activity, education, and support intervention

FRQ COVID-19 Biobank