Risk of Environmental Surface and Air Contamination in COVID‑19 Caused by Variant Viruses (RISC-COV-Variants)

McGeer, Allison J | $498,969

Ontario Sinai Health System 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

COVID‑19 is an infection caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. The original form of this virus first emerged in late 2019 and has caused a worldwide pandemic. This virus is transmitted from person to person, usually before or at the beginning of infection, predominantly via large respiratory droplets, although airborne smaller particles, and the contaminated environment may play a role. The best test to detect infection is with a swab of the back of the nose called a nasopharyngeal swab. Like influenza, this coronavirus changes over time. In influenza, changes in the virus mean that the virus evades immunity, so that previously infected and vaccinated people becoming re-infected. This is likely to occur with SARS-CoV-2 as well. However, the situation with coronaviruses is worse than with influenza: coronaviruses are known for their ability to change many different characteristics. Thus, although we are worried that changes may make vaccine less effective, it is also true that the virus might change how or when it is transmitted, or what the best test for detection is. Our study will take advantage of previous work with COVID‑19 by our group, and a network of researchers called the Toronto Invasive Bacterial Diseases Network ([www.tibdn.ca](http://www.tibdn.ca)) to ask whether or not new variants of COVID have different characteristics than the original virus. For a serious of variants of SARS-CoV-2, we will study whether the air and environment around COVID‑19 patients is contaminated with virus, what the best diagnostic test for COVID‑19 is, and how long people test positive during their illnesses.

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