Andre Valleteau spent his 27th birthday home alone with his cat. Friends dropped off groceries and a cake, but Valleteau said he had little appetite just five days after finding out he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“I was at home for 17 days straight. The quarantine itself was probably the hardest part,” Valleteau said.
The clinical research coordinator at LMC Manna Research, a Toronto company that carries out research studies itself, said he spent a lot of time reading and researching the novel coronavirus.
Valleteau learned that clinical trials were happening around the world and wanted to know more.
“I think I saw that China was sending plasma over to Italy when Italy’s cases started ramping up, so I was curious then, ‘Are we doing anything like this? Is there any opportunity when this is all over to be able to contribute in the same way?’” Valleteau wondered.
He emailed a doctor from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, who was following Valleteau’s progress remotely, asked if there were any research studies he could participate in.
Valleteau is now part of two research studies, including one being led by Dr. Mario Ostrowski at St. Michael’s Hospital. The study is looking at patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to understand immunity to coronavirus to develop immunotherapies.
“What we’re doing is asking people to come into the hospital to do a procedure called leukapheresis. The procedure is similar to when you donate blood at the Red Cross and you have an intravenous put into your arm,” he said.
“In our situation, the machine samples a person’s immune cells and returns the blood back to their body.”
After serum and immune cells are extracted, the samples are sent to 20 or 30 laboratories all over the world who study how the immune system is attacking the virus and to look at the antibodies that the person is making to neutralize the virus.
Ostrowski said by studying the antibodies, the samples can be synthesized and made in large amounts that can be used as immunotherapy in people who have a severe case of COVID-19.
Valleteau is also taking part in a study being led by researchers at Sunnybrook Health Sciences CEntre to provide insight on an application to help track, monitor and treat COVID-19 patients.
Back at work, Valleteau is happy he can help the scientific world understand this deadly pandemic.
“We can all play a part in this, I think. We’re all not isolated incidents,” he said.
“It really is something that is happening to everybody, so any way that you can help it’s really going to be a benefit.”View link »