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Ten projects, ten ways, one goal: fighting COVID-19 around the world

IDRC is pleased to announce a new set of research projects aimed at addressing the health and social challenges created and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lab in a box. Portable diagnostic equipment developed for the Zika virus is being adjusted to test for COVID-19.

Can certain types of blood pressure medication reduce the danger in high risk COVID-19 patients? How can strategies to control malaria be tailored to the context of the pandemic? What are the specific challenges for diverse LGBTQI2+ populations? And how does protecting health workers vary from one part of the world to another?

These are just some of the questions that ten new IDRC-funded research projects aim to answer as part of the Centre’s ongoing contribution to Canada’s response to COVID-19. All projects will see collaboration between Canadian and international researchers from Thailand to Kenya to Peru.

"COVID-19 knows no boundaries, and our responses to the pandemic must reflect that reality,” says the Honourable Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development. “By building on IDRC’s productive relationships with researchers in the Global South, Canadian researchers have the opportunity to develop long-lasting solutions that are fit-for-purpose in the world’s less well-resourced countries. I congratulate these international collaborations.” 

The projects are an answer to a call from the Government of Canada in April, when it launched the COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity, committing CA$109 million to pandemic research in Canada and around the world. The inter-agency collaboration, led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, involved contributions from several provincial organizations, along with CA$6.5 million from IDRC. A total of 139 projects received funding from the call out of more than 1,000 applications.

This project aims to develop, validate and implement the molecular tools and hardware required for the decentralized, high capacity diagnostic and serological testing needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemics in Canada, Colombia and Ecuador.

This project directly addresses social, policy, and public health responses and related indirect consequences with the priority population of refugees in countries with weaker health systems. It focuses on urban refugee youth who experience poverty, overcrowded living conditions, and poor sanitation that increase COVID-19 risks while limiting the ability to practice mitigation strategies (e.g. frequent hand washing, physical distancing).

This project will address knowledge gaps in low-resource countries, such as Kenya, as they pertain to the understanding of the frequency of household SARS-CoV-2 transmission, proportion of asymptomatic infection, and natural history of infection.  This project will provide relevant information for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development efforts. 

This project investigates the social and public health response to COVID-19 in Tanzania and assesses the impacts of the pandemic on malaria prevention and control at the community and health systems levels. There are concerns that tackling COVID-19 will disrupt malaria control efforts, leading to a resurgence in malaria and undermining progress to date. 

This project aims to inform policy and public health responses to protect healthcare workers (HCWs). As HCWs play a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic response, evidence about the consequences of policies and implementation of measures to protect HCWs in Canada and internationally are paramount to study. 

A network of Canadian and international research institutes will evaluate whether adding RASi drugs, compared to no added treatment in high risk COVID-19 patients, can decrease the chance of dying, or requiring ventilators or Intensive Care Units. If results confirm its benefit, this will potentially save many lives in the world, using common and inexpensive medications.

The study will take advantage of already-existing infrastructure for TB diagnosis in Peru providing cheap, user-friendly and rapid, automated molecular TB testing. Strengthening COVID-19 diagnostic capacity and integrating COVID-19 with TB testing will contribute to save resources, improve quality of disease care, and minimize the time that individuals have in the community to transmit the disease. 

This project will adapt, test, and disseminate a community-engaged, eHealth intervention with diverse LGBT+ populations to reduce their risk of COVID-19 infection. The research team will test the intervention’s effectiveness in increasing COVID-19 knowledge and protective behaviours and reducing psychological distress among LGBT+ people in Canada, India, and Thailand.

This project aims to answer two questions about COVID-19: 1) What factors increase or reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection; and 2) What are the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on respiratory and cardiovascular health?  To answer these questions, the project will study 35,000 adults from 13 countries who will be tested for COVID-19 and assessed for behavioural and physical risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use or low physical activity. 

This study aims to find out whether there are factors that increase the risk of an individual being infected by COVID-19 and to identify long-term health effects of having a COVID-19 infection. The PURE project follows 40,000 adults from 30 communities in 13 high-, middle- and low-income countries for three years to learn about late complications such as lung disease and heart or circulatory problems.

Read about two other projects related to COVID-19, Rapid, low-cost diagnostics and deployable surge capacity for COVID-19 and Guidelines to improve healthcare worker response to COVID-19 pandemic, on our website. These projects, also collaborations between Canadian and international researchers, received IDRC funding through an earlier rapid response competition managed by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“Accelerating high-quality research and real-time evidence is a priority for Canada in its fight against COVID-19,” says the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Health. “ I congratulate the successful teams for their essential work aimed at better preventing, detecting, and treating COVID-19 at the individual and population levels. Our government believes that it’s through collaboration and data sharing that we will respond efficiently to this global health emergency.”

IDRC recognizes the need for international collaboration to respond to the pandemic and is committed to working with partners to form an effective global response. The Centre is supporting research to address urgent local needs, build local capacities, and focus on the most vulnerable populations, with an eye toward building more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable societies, economies, and environments.