Drawing of crowd
The RESPECT study will help protect healthcare workers by accelerating COVID-19 testing and screening for asymptomatic cases. (Image: iStock)

UHN has launched a research study to determine the prevalence of coronavirus infection in healthcare workers.

The study, titled "Research Platform to Screen and Protect Healthcare Workers" – or RESPECT for short, will determine how common asymptomatic COVID-19 infection is among healthcare workers at UHN.

"We urgently need to understand the disease and to quickly develop and implement screening strategies to protect our patients and healthcare workers," says Dr. Deepali Kumar, Clinician Investigator at Toronto General Hospital, who is leading the study.

Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals can transmit COVID-19, which can be a significant risk in healthcare settings, especially in long-term care facilities.

"As Canada's largest research hospital, UHN is uniquely positioned to rapidly initiate, conduct and coordinate multisite research," says Dr. Kumar.

"We will use our expertise in supporting multisite clinical trials to standardize the collection of biospecimens from healthcare workers and deliver them to research laboratories for testing."

Dr. Deepali Kumar
Dr. Deepali Kumar, a Clinician Investigator at Toronto General Hospital, is leading the study. (Photo: UHN StRIDe Team)

Through this study, the research community will contribute to the fight against COVID-19 in the following three ways:

  • by developing alternative COVID-19 tests that do not use precious clinical laboratory resources needed for existing testing
  • by establishing a centralized system to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 and to deliver test results back to individuals
  • by finding ways to share data and test results in real time

Participation in the study is voluntary. Other research hospitals are interested in joining RESPECT and the team is working to expand the platform across the province and the country.

"Our staff have been working around the clock to ensure that we have the infrastructure to fast track this study in order to support our frontline staff," says Brad Wouters, EVP Science and Research at UHN. "It's remarkable what we can accomplish as a team during these challenging times."

This study is supported by the MSH-UHN Academic Medical Organization COVID-19 Innovation Fund, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation.

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