Help

The COVID-19 study with CanPath

What are CanPath’s COVID-19 research initiatives?

• COVID-19 Questionnaire administered across the CanPath cohort of 330,000 participants
• CIHR and CITF-funded seroprevalence study of 3,000 randomly selected participants
• CITF-funded seroprevalence study of 20,000 participants in populations at high risk of exposure to COVID-19

What is the CanPath COVID-19 Antibody Study?

COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health challenge, and it is important that scientists and policymakers understand how prevalent this disease is among the general public. This study aims to find out how many Canadians have developed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, by measuring antibodies from a donated blood spot sample. The study also includes a questionnaire that has questions about symptoms you may have experienced, testing, treatment, and also how the pandemic and physical distancing requirements have affected your daily life and well-being. We will also be asking questions about access to vaccines, and whether you have received a COVID-19 vaccine. This study will capture important data that will support researchers who are working on projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This data may also be used in conjunction with the questionnaire data and biological samples you have provided to us in the past.
All of the regional cohorts of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health (CanPath, formerly called the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project) are participating in this study. This includes Atlantic PATH, CARTaGENE (Quebec), the Ontario Health Study, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, the Manitoba Tomorrow Project, and the BC Generations Project.

Who is funding the CanPath COVID-19 Antibody Study?

CanPath’s COVID-19 Antibody Study is funded by the Government of Canada, through Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, and by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. CanPath receives national funding from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

Who can participate in the COVID-19 Antibody Study?

Only current participants of CanPath and its regional cohorts are invited to contribute to this study. Participants will receive communications directly from their regional cohort if they are invited to participate in the COVID-19 Antibody Study.

Can I participate in the COVID-19 Antibody Study if I have received a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. If you have received an invitation to participate in the COVID-19 Antibody Study from your regional cohort, you can participate whether you have or have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. The questionnaire will ask if you have received a COVID-19 vaccine and this information will be linked to your blood spot sample.

Can I participate in the COVID-19 Antibody Study if I have not had COVID-19?

Yes. If you have received an invitation to participate in the COVID-19 Antibody Study from your regional cohort, you can participate whether you have or have not received a positive COVID-19 test result. The questionnaire will ask if you have been tested for COVID-19 and what the results were, and this information will be linked to your blood spot sample.

Can I participate in more than one COVID-19 research study?

Yes. You can participate in the CanPath COVID-19 Antibody Study even if you are participating in other COVID-19 research studies.  

What is a blood spot sample?

A blood spot sample is a process where a few drops of blood are collected on a piece of filter paper and dried. In this study, blood will be collected through a finger prick.

Why am I being asked to give a blood spot sample?

Your blood spot sample will be used to conduct a serology test, also known as an antibody test.

What is serology or antibody testing?

Serological tests do not detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) itself. Instead, they detect the antibodies your immune system produces in response to an infection. Serology tests are also known as antibody tests.
The immune response to a virus involves the creation of different types of antibodies produced at different stages of an infection:
1. Early antibodies, called IgM antibodies, provide the first indication of the body's response to an infection. These antibodies are not as specific and generally are not as long lasting, so interpreting their significance requires clinical experience.
2. IgG antibodies are specific to a virus, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Early research results suggest these antibodies can be reliably detected 14 days after a person is infected with COVID-19.
CanPath will be testing dried blood spots sampled from participants for IgG antibodies that are specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The relationship between antibodies and immunity to infection with SARS-CoV-2 is still unknown. It is unclear whether people with antibodies are immune to re-infection or if they are still infectious to others.
Antibodies are present for an undetermined period of time after an infection has ended.
Serological studies, such as this one, aim to investigate these unknowns to provide a better understanding of COVID-19 and to identify how Canadians and public health officials can best respond to and manage the threat of the virus within our population.

When can I expect to receive the results of the antibody test of my blood spot sample?

Study participants can expect to receive the results of the antibody test of their blood spot sample approximately three months after returning their blood spot sample to a Canada Post mailbox.

When will this study be conducted?

The blood spot samples will be collected from participants between December 2020 and June 2021. For those selected to partake in the CIHR-funded seroprevalence study, a second and third blood spot sample will be collected 6 and 12 months after the first sample is collected.

Why is CanPath, a cancer and chronic disease study, participating in COVID-19 research?

This serology study aims to find out how many Canadians have developed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. The results of this study will show who has been exposed to the virus, which risk factors affect exposure and why immune systems respond differently to the virus.
n addition to understanding the direct health impacts of COVID-19 infection, we see growing evidence that there may be links between infectious diseases (like viruses and bacteria) and non-infectious chronic diseases (like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers). We hope that comparing the findings of our study with data on health and lifestyle factors will help determine whether a coronavirus infection may have long-term effects on chronic disease.
As a longitudinal study following participants for up to 50 years, CanPath (and our regional cohorts) are uniquely positioned to investigate the long-term effects of COVID-19 on Canadians.

Didn’t I just complete a CanPath COVID-19 study?

Yes. Almost 100,000 CanPath and regional cohort participants completed the CanPath COVID-19 Questionnaire. Thank you! The information collected by this questionnaire is providing researchers and public health professionals with great insights into how the pandemic has affected the health and well-being of Canadians. This will help them understand how best to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves, and will also inform future pandemic responses.
Now, CanPath and its regional cohorts are conducting a new COVID-19 serology study to see which Canadians have developed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. This study aims to find out who has been exposed to the virus, which risk factors affect exposure and why immune systems respond differently to the virus.
This new study builds on the information already captured by the previous COVID-19 questionnaire, including potential sources of exposure to the virus, such as those experienced by healthcare workers.

Who will see the results of my blood spot sample?

The results of the serological (antibody) test obtained from your blood spot sample and any additional health measurements will be stored in your cohort’s database and in the CanPath national database. Your personal information will be stored in a separate database from survey and serological (antibody) test data, and will only be accessible to a limited few of the regional cohort staff. A ‘key’ linking your personal information to your unique code will be stored in a locked, separate physical location, and accessible only by the cohort coordinator. No information that could directly identify you will be stored in the CanPath databases.
Some coded and de-identified questionnaire data and antibody test results will also be shared with the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force(CITF), who funded the study. The CITF will not be able to link your data to you as an individual.

How is my privacy protected?

Your data will be protected using current security safeguards. These safeguards include keeping your personal information separate from study data, assigning a unique code number to identifying information, and only releasing coded data to researchers.

How will my blood sample be used?

The blood spot sample you provide will be tested for antibodies to COVID-19. Once the lab analysis is complete, your sample will be returned for secure storage at your regional cohort. Your sample may be used in the future by approved researchers for further health research, just like the biological samples some participants provided upon joining the study.

If my sample tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies, do I need to self-isolate or get tested for COVID-19?

No. While antibodies indicate that you have been infected with COVID-19 at some point in the past, this is not an indication of a current COVID-19 infection. If you are having COVID-19 symptoms unexplained by other health conditions, please contact your regular healthcare provider.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and have been told to self-isolate, please wait until after this isolation period ends to participate in our study.

If I am notified that my sample tests positive for antibodies, does this mean I no longer need to practice protective measures (i.e. physical distancing, hand-washing, wearing masks)?

At this time, it is unknown how long antibodies to COVID-19 may last, or whether having antibodies from a previous infection provides immunity to future COVID-19 infections. It is therefore important that you continue to practice protective measures (physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks etc.) and follow public health guidelines.

If my sample tests positive for antibodies, how long will these antibodies last?

This is still unknown. Your participation in this study is important so we can learn more about COVID-19 infections, antibodies and immunity.

If I have been vaccinated for COVID-19 but my sample tests negative for antibodies, does this mean my vaccine did not work?

No. The test results you receive will only report antibodies resulting from a previous infection of COVID-19. The results will not report antibodies resulting from a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have received a COVID-19 vaccine, you may have developed antibodies not reported by this test.

Will the antibody test detect antibodies from the new variants of COVID-19?

Yes. The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, has mutated into several different variants around the world. The lab conducting our antibody testing continues to keep an eye on the new variants detected and will adapt the test as needed to capture antibodies from variants of the virus. The CanPath test results you receive will report antibodies resulting from a previous infection of COVID-19, however will not specify which variant.

Will results of the antibody testing be returned to participants? What results will participants receive?

Yes, we will return the results of your COVID-19 serological test to you. It is expected to take up to three months to receive the test results. You will be contacted by the staff of CARTaGENE

You will receive one of four possible results: a positive result confirming that there are COVID-19 antibodies in your blood, a negative result indicating that there are no COVID-19 antibodies in your blood, an inconclusive result indicating that there are some COVID-19 antibodies in your blood but not enough to meet the threshold for a positive result, or a technical failure result stating that an error occurred with the sample or analysis and the lab could not determine if COVID-19 antibodies were present.

The antibodies being tested for in this study become detectable approximately 10 to 14 days following infection. Please consult your regular health practitioner if you have any questions about the findings from your blood spot sample.

Can the test detect antibodies from a COVID-19 vaccine? Can the test differentiate between antibodies from COVID-19 exposure compared to antibodies from the vaccine?

The antibody test can detect antibodies developed after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The results you receive will not be able to differentiate between antibodies resulting from a COVID-19 infection or a COVID-19 vaccine. Information about antibodies and the COVID-19 vaccine is evolving quickly. This study aims to help answer questions about COVID-19 antibodies and immunity. By participating in this study, you will help us answer some of these very timely questions.

How do I do the blood spot test?

Instructions to complete the blood spot sample collection will be provided in the mailed kit and can be found online here: CanPath Blood Spot Sample Collection Instructions

I didn’t receive/lost my test kit. Could you send me another one?

For any questions regarding your test kit, please contact us. 

What should I do if I have questions about my results?

Please consult your regular health practitioner if you have any questions about the findings from your blood spot sample. Please note that these results are for research purposes only and should not change any COVID-19 precautions you are taking.

Do I still need to get vaccinated even if my results show I tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies?

Yes. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies you should still get vaccinated. At this time, experts do not know how long someone might be protected from getting sick again after a COVID-19 infection.

CARTaGENE Participant Portal

How can I unsubscribe from the CARTaGENE newsletters?

If you wish to stop receiving newsletters, log on to the portal, click on the drop down menu (down arrow) from the blue button at the top right and click on “My Profile”. At the bottom of your profile page, you will find the “Preferences” section. Then, you can choose the options that best suit you.

How can I modify my name, date of birth or sex on the CARTaGENE portal?

You can NOT change your name, date of birth or sex that appear on the portal by yourself. To make changes to this information, you have to contact the CaG-CHUSJ Unit at 1-877-263-2360. A verbal confirmation of the change will be requested following a verification of your identity.

My email address doesn’t work, what can I do?

When you sign in for the first time on the portal, you must use the email address you provided to CARTaGENE during your initial enrollment. If it still doesn’t work, please call the CaG-CHUSJ Unit at 1-877-263-2360.

I did not receive an email following my registration in the portal, what can I do?

Following your first connection on the portal, you should receive an email verifying that the email address you provided is still valid. If you have not received the verification email, you can - Check spam in your email box (also known as "junk"); - Request that another validation email be sent from the login page; - Contact the Unité CaG-CHU Sainte-Justine 1-877-263-2360.

How can I change my contact information (email, address, phone number, and password?

The portal allows you to change your address, telephone number, email and password only when you have logged in at least once. To change your: • Email: When logged in, click on the drop down menu (down arrow) from the blue button at the top right and click on “Update Email”. Type your new email address in the box. Remember this email, you will need it to connect to the portal. • Password: When logged in, click on the drop down menu (down arrow) from the blue button at the top right and click on “Update Password”. Type your current and new passwords. Memorize your new password. • Mailing address and phone number: When logged in, click on the drop down menu (down arrow) from the blue button at the top right and click on “My Profile”, go to the "Contact Information" and make the desired changes. Click on the green button "Save" at the bottom of the page. For further information, please read the user guide.

I have been invited to a new study. How can I participate?

This user guide will help you to access to the study information for which you have been invited. If you are still experiencing difficulties, you can contact the CaG-CHUSJ Unit at 1-877-263-2360.

I have trouble using the portal, how can I get help?

This user guide will help you use the portal. If you are still experiencing difficulties using the portal, you can contact the CaG-CHUSJ Unit at 1-877-263-2360.

Data Access and Privacy Policies

How long will CARTaGENE keep my data?

CARTaGENE will keep data as long as the project exists. Data will not be destroyed after a participant’s death, unless clear instructions to this effect are mentioned in a will.

Who can access the data?

CARTaGENE is designed to prevent data access by insurers and employers. Only researchers who received scientific and ethical approvals have access to data.

Participants’ data are protected by codes which ensure confidentiality. CARTaGENE has mechanisms and robust IT security architecture compliant with international norms and standards on the best information security practices. Samples in the biobank are protected against unauthorized use by mechanic and electronic systems. In addition, all Génome Québec Biobank and CARTaGENE employees have signed confidentiality agreements.

General Questions About the Study

Am I free to participate?

You are free to participate in follow-up surveys and other studies for which you have been invited. You may at any time request that your name be removed from the list of registered participants on the portal. This will not cause the destruction of data and biological samples collected since the beginning of your participation in CARTaGENE. If your name is removed from the participant portal, you will no longer receive invitations from CARTaGENE to participate in health follow-up surveys or any other studies of interest.

How can I withdraw from CARTaGENE?

You may request that your name be removed from the list of registered participants on the portal. If your name is removed from the participant portal, you will no longer be able to log in or receive invitations from CARTaGENE to participate in health follow-up surveys or any other study of interest.
You can also request the destruction of your data and biological samples.
To withdraw, you have to communicate with the Unité CaG-CHUSJ at 1-877-263-2360 (toll-free).

What are the benefits of participating?

There is no direct benefit for participants. However, participation in CARTaGENE can improve health knowledge through studies using CARTaGENE data and biosamples.

What are the disadvantages and risks of participating in CARTaGENE?

The main disadvantage of participating in the health follow-up is the time spent completing questionnaires.
Given the measures undertaken by CARTaGENE to protect the confidentiality of the data, the risk to their safety or privacy is minimized.

English