Rapid response discussed

The last flu pandemic has largely faded from the public consciousness, but it’s top of mind for more than 100 experts gathered from around the world in Toronto this week.

A select group of about 100 researchers and policymakers from around the world is meeting in Toronto

A select group of about 100 researchers and policymakers from around the world is meeting in Toronto

TORONTO — The last flu pandemic has largely faded from the public consciousness, but it’s top of mind for more than 100 experts gathered from around the world in Toronto this week.

Their mission: to prepare for the next one.

The get-together was organized by the International Forum for Acute Care Trialists, or InFACT, an international organization of critical care researchers. It brings together scientists, doctors and representatives of government and funding agencies.

The chair of InFACT, Dr. John Marshall of St. Michael’s Hospital, describes the invitation-only meeting as an “exciting convergence of groups of people who don’t normally spend a lot of time together.”

The idea is to do as much as they can in the way of research and readiness between pandemics, he explained.

“When a pandemic occurs, there’s a sudden need for knowledge in an area where there hasn’t been any knowledge,” Marshall said Monday in an interview from the conference.

“You don’t know what the disease is like, you don’t know how serious it is, you don’t know who’s going to be at risk for it, you don’t know how best to treat it — but it is virtually impossible to generate that information during the pandemic simply because it presupposes you’ve set things up in advance to do the studies.”

Current discussions involve looking at pandemic research that can be done on an ongoing basis, and establishing research structures.

Then when the next pandemic occurs, it’s possible to ramp up activity rapidly so that information is available for governments and policymakers to make appropriate decisions and doctors know what they’re facing, Marshall said.

A study published last year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that there were 8,678 hospital admissions related to the H1N1 pandemic that hit Canada in 2009, including 1,473 admissions to intensive care units. There were 428 deaths.

Marshall said researchers have been able to launch registries that include some of the sickest H1N1 patients who were admitted to ICUs.

Now, there are more than 5,000 patients in five different registries around the world.

But during the pandemic, it was a challenge to get clinicians to collect data so it could be analyzed quickly and provide information to groups like the World Health Organization, he said.

“We tried to launch some clinical trials of inexpensive readily available treatments, but the challenges there were enormous because you have to develop protocols, you have to get a research ethics board to review it and approve it,” he said.

“Our biggest challenge was in negotiating contracts between countries, and getting indemnification for conducting research that’s not being held within Canada.”

“So a lot of those issues really meant that our randomized trial, by the time we had actually been able to launch it, the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic had essentially passed, and we were too late.”

The goal now is to be ready so that when another pandemic strikes, the pieces are in place and the scientific community doesn’t have to start from a blank slate, he indicated.

The attendees hoped to move beyond discussion, and develop and propose to funding groups some specific research projects, he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ice shifted to the shoreline at Sylvan Lake on April 21. (Photo contributed by Andrea Swainson)
Icy shores of Sylvan Lake

A local photographer has captured how the ice has shifted to the… Continue reading

A Loblaws store is seen Monday, March 9, 2015 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
In absence of mandated paid sick days, some companies are stepping up

Only 42 per cent of working Canadians say they have access to paid sick leave

President Joe Biden waves after holding a virtual meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Evan Vucci
New emission-cutting goals called ‘aggressive,’ ‘ambitious’ and ‘illogical’

Canadian industry is being compelled to cut methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Brooke Henderson, of Canada, watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Canadian Brooke Henderson vaults into tie for fourth at LPGA Tour event

Henderson is sixth in the world women’s golf rankings

Switzerland’s skip Silvana Tirinzoni makes a call during a women’s curling match against Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Natacha Pisarenko
Previously unbeaten women’s teams suffer setbacks at Grand Slam curling event

Top six women’s and men’s teams qualify for the playoffs.

FILE - Gal Gadot arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gadot is using her Hollywood star power to spotlight remarkable women from around the world. The “Wonder Woman” actor is host and executive producer of a new documentary series “National Geographic Presents IMPACT with Gal Gadot,” premiering Monday, April 26. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Gal Gadot spotlights women’s stories in new docuseries

First episode follows a young Black figure skating coach in Detroit

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino listens to speakers during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Retaking language test unfair during COVID-19: applicants to new residency pathway

New program aims to grant 90,000 essential workers and international graduates permanent status

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Most Read