UWindsor researchers land $500K federal grant for multi-disciplinary COVID-19 study

Research on the transmission and detection of COVID-19 is already taking place at the University of Windsor, but a half-million dollar federal grant will now allow researchers to collaborate their findings to possibly detect dangerous variants before they land on public health’s radar.

The multi-disciplinary study group landed the Canadian Institute of Health Research grant as a response to gaps in research that have been identified as the pandemic continues.

“One of the things we’re learned through the pandemic is we need to be proactive, we need to have platforms set up where we can detect not just COVID, but any type of virus that might hit our community,” says one of the study’s supervisors, Lisa Porter.

The team will combine wastewater surveillance at three UWindsor residences with other surveillance methods like swabbing, variant treatment research and the psychology of testing procedures.

Windsor was chosen, in part, because of it’s unique location on the border.

“We have essential workers going back and forth daily, we have commercial truck drivers going back and forth daily and these are important vectors of transmission of disease,” says Mike McKay, the executive director at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER).

The GLIER team’s wastewater surveillance has been heralded as an eye-opening early indicator of COVID prevalence in the community.

McKay says this grant will support more research with neighbouring Detroit to track and understand the spread of the virus.

“Its a resource that I think has been under appreciated by the public health community,” says McKay. “I think COVID-19 has been the event that’s put this in the spotlight, allowed public health to recognize the potential value of wastewater surveillance.”

Results of the testing will be publicly available through an online dashboard at We Spark’s website.

The key goal, says Porter, is using research and data to be ready for new variants and new viruses coming down the pipeline.

“The next thing that’s going to hit us, we want to be prepared, we want to be able to isolate the population,” Porter says.

The funding will support the research for one year.