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.

‘Contain COVID-19’ – in its earliest phases

Dr. Nicole Ezer, Dr. James Martin, Dr. Andrea Benedetti and Dr. Ben Smith, all members of the RI-MUHC’s RESP Program, have recently announced their new COVID-19 study. This study is designed to test the efficacy of ciclesonide, a steroid currently on the market, to inhibit the spread of the COVID virus in its early stages. This new trial builds on the knowledge gained from a recent study using dexamethasone on advanced cases of COVID-19.

This new study, called Contain COVID-19, which will soon be in the recruiting stage, is aimed at decreasing the severity of shortness of breath among patients who have not yet been hospitalized. Dr. Ezer states in her recent interview with Mathieu Perreault of La Presse:

« Nous espérons que ça va diminuer la gêne respiratoire et éviter l’hospitalisation en stoppant la réplication virale et en diminuant la progression de l’inflammation dans les voies respiratoires inférieures. »

Eligible participants of the study will receive the medication (or placebo) in inhaler and nasal spray form at their residence, to be used for a period of 14 days. Ciclesonide was approved by Health Canada in 2008, and side effects are fairly uncommon, mild and cease when the medication is stopped.

Dr. Ezer’s interview with Mathieu Perreault of La Presse can be read here.

Detailed information on the clinical trial as well as registration information, can be found here.

Jean Bourbeau receives funding from the CIHR 2020 COVID-19 May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity


Dr. Jean Bourbeau received funding from the CIHR COVID-19 May 2020 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity. Title of grant: COVID-19 and COPD: Important knowledge gaps in subclinical pulmonary disease in the Canadian population.

Congratulations Jean!

Dr. Jean Bourbeau is an Associate Member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, Member of the RECRU, and Scientist at the RI-MUHC RESP Program. His research focuses primarily on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and secondarily on disease management, self-management, pulmonary rehabilitation and cardiorespiratory exercise physiology.

Benjamin Smith, JAMA 2020. Jun 9;323(22):2268-2280. Figure 1. These CT scans of airways (red) and lungs (dark grey) show the spectrum of dysanapsis, with smaller airways in proportion to lung size (left) compared with normal size airways (middle), and larger than normal airways (right).

Dysanapsis and COPD risk

A new study by Dr. Benjamin Smith highlights dysanapsis as a strong risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Dysanapsis is a developmental mismatch between airway and lung size. While smoking has long been known as the best-known risk factor for COPD, it never explained why only a minority of lifelong smokers develop the disease, while non-smokers represent more than 25% of all COPD cases.

The team conducted detailed analysis of lung images and assessed standard COPD risk factors such as tobacco smoking, secondhand smoke, air pollution and occupational exposures. Their results show that dysanapsis appears to be a very strong risk factor for COPD, associated with twice as much of the variation in COPD risk when compared with cigarette smoking and other standard COPD risk factors. When the researchers measured airway tree and lung size using state-of-the-art CT scans of the chest, they discovered that never smokers with COPD had much smaller airways relative to lung size, whereas the heavy smokers who did not have COPD had unusually large airways and thus found themselves at the opposite end of the dysanapsis spectrum. While the root cause for dysanapsis remains unknown, these findings help understand why COPD can occur in people who never smoked and do not have other risk factors.

Read more about the study on RI-MUHC NEWS.

Read the article here:

Association of Dysanapsis With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among Older Adults. Smith BM, Kirby M, Hoffman EA, Kronmal RA, Aaron SD, Allen NB, Bertoni A, Coxson HO, Cooper C, Couper DJ, Criner G, Dransfield MT, Han MK, Hansel NN, Jacobs DR Jr, Kaufman JD, Lin CL, Manichaikul A, Martinez FJ, Michos ED, Oelsner EC, Paine R 3rd, Watson KE, Benedetti A, Tan WC, Bourbeau J, Woodruff PG, Barr RG; MESA Lung, CanCOLD, and SPIROMICS Investigators. JAMA. 2020 Jun 9;323(22):2268-2280. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.6918. PMID: 32515814

Dr. Benjamin Smith is a member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre – RESP program.

Congratulations to the Spring 2020 Student Award Winners for their CIHR and FRQS and McGill studentships and fellowships. Image courtesy of Elliot King

Spring 2020 Awards

The Meakins-Christie Laboratories staff would like to extend their congratulations as follows:

Congratulations to Dr. Eva Kaufmann (PDF with Dr. Maziar Divangahi) on receiving a CIHR Fellowship Award for her project entitled “Deciphering the Implementability of Epigenetic Reprogramming in Hematopoietic Stem Cells as a Novel Vaccination Strategy against Human Tuberculosis.” (3 years) (May 2020)

Congratulations to Mira Abou Rjeili (Grad PhD with Drs. Carolyn Baglole and Jean Bourbeau) on receiving a FRQS Doctoral Training Award for her project entitled “Une approche personnalise pour le diagnostic des patients atteints de la Maladie Pulmonaire Obstructive Chronique (MPOC) et de l’Insuffisance Cardiaque Chronique (ICC) concomitante.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Qian Li (Grad PhD with Dr. Basil Petrof) on receiving a Scholarship from the China Scholarship Council for her project entitled “New insights into macrophage dynamics in the mouse diaphragm.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Eisha Ahmed (Grad PhD with Dr. Bruce Mazer) on receiving a FRQS Doctoral Training Award for her project entitled “Développement et dynamique des cellules B régulatrices exprimant l’interleukins 10.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Dr. Jonathon Campbell (PDF with Dr. Dick Menzies) on receiving a FRQS Postdoctoral Fellowship Award for his project entitled “Le rôle de la rifamycine dans le traitement de l’infection de la tuberculose latente: informer les lignes directrices et modifier la prise en charge.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Lydia Labrie (Grad PhD with Dr. Elizabeth Fixman and Dr. Brian Ward) on receiving a FRQS Doctoral Training Award for her project entitled “Protection dépendante d’un peptide inhibiteur dans un modèle d’asthme combiné de la virus respiratoire syncytial-acariens de la poussière.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Vanessa Moarbes (Grad PhD with Dr. Elizabeth D. Fixman) on receiving a FRQS Doctoral Training Award for her project entitled “Activité inhibitrice de STAT6-IP sur: la production d’IL-13 médiée par l’IL-33, l’activation des éosinophiles, et la polarisation des macrophages dans un modèle murin d’allergie.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Matthew Preteroti (MSc with Dr. Carolyn Baglole) on receiving the MeZu-hua Gao Graduate Award from McGill for his project entitled “Investigating Receptor-Mediated Effects of Select Cannabinoids on Innate Pulmonary Immunity.” (May 2020)

Congratulations to Bavanitha Thurairajah (MSc with Dr. Irah King) on receiving a FRQS Masters Training Award for her project entitled “L’effet d’un microbiote sauvage sur l’immunité cutanée médiée par IL-17.” (May 2020)

COVID-19: Best Testing Practices

COVID-19: Change our Testing Tactics!

Dr. Dick Menzies’ latest opinion piece on COVID-19 appears in the Montreal Gazette. According to Dr. Menzies, the best plan for testing is to focus it on the asymptomatic individuals who interact closely and regularly with people who are symptomatic and have tested positive. This is where we will find the virus-positive, asymptomatic individuals in the community. Identifying these seemingly healthy yet highly contagious people will greatly reduce the spread of the virus.

This thought-provoking article can be read in full here.

Dr. Dick Menzies, MD, is a RESP member and Meakins-Christie Associate Member and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for TB research at the MUHC. Jonathon Campbell is a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Dick Menzies in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health at McGill University.

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 publication here: β-Glucan Induces Protective Trained Immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection: A Key Role for IL-1. Moorlag SJCFM, Khan N, Novakovic B, Kaufmann E, Jansen T, van Crevel R, Divangahi M, Netea MG. Cell Rep. 2020 May 19;31(7):107634. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107634.

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.