A seroprevalence study, established with Dr. Brenda Coleman and Dr. Allison McGeer at Sinai Health System in Toronto, will determine the local infection rates of SARS-CoV-2 in the greater Hamilton area. Currently, 350 adult participants living in the greater Hamilton area are enrolled in the study. Blood samples from multiple timepoints post-outbreak will be used to identify the rate of symptomatic vs. asymptomatic individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2, the duration of antibody-mediated protection, and investigate how social distancing and societal measures can protect individuals from being infected with SARS-CoV-2.

In another project, the Bowdish lab and Dr. Judah Denburg’s lab are optimizing a series of immunophenotyping panels to determine immune correlates of protection from SARS-CoV-2. During the second wave, they will be able to determine variations in circulating immune parameters and activation responses. These panels will be used to investigate the differences in immune responses and inflammation between healthy donors, symptomatic, and asymptomatic individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2. The team is also optimizing COVID-19 antibody detection assays using oral swabs and saliva to develop alternate point-of-care diagnostic methods. The optimization will examine the impact to which antibodies to seasonally circulating coronaviruses (e.g. 229E, NL63, OC43) affect false-positive rates and whether the presence of these antibodies correlate with protection. 

In collaboration with Dr. Michael Surette, the Bowdish lab is also working to understand how the airway microbiome of individuals of different ages and demographics influence susceptibility or protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Understanding how the airway microbiome protects against disease holds promise for identifying new anti-viral and anti-bacterial treatments against many respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2.

This work is funded by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, HASO, and the McMaster COVID-19 Research Fund.

This article is part of a series highlighting research being conducted at MIRC as part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic