This study will analyze blood samples collected for standard testing in pregnancy from expectant women across Canada to help determine the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and when the virus entered Canada

Today, Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) announces its support for a study of antenatal serum samples (using blood samples from standard tests from expectant women). This $3.1 million investment will help track trends in the level of SARS-CoV-2 infection amongst pregnant women in all provinces and territories of Canada. It will provide a pan-Canadian picture of population infections arising from the first wave of novel coronavirus infection, as well as an indication of when the virus might have entered Canada. 

“Pregnant women represent the full diversity of Canada and, as such, are a valuable window on our nation,” explains Dr. Deborah Money, Principal Investigator of the study and Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medicine & School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. “I am very appreciative of the partnerships with provincial and territorial public health labs and researchers across the country that are making this project possible. Tracking novel coronavirus antibodies in this population provides us both insights on risks of infection in pregnant women and opportunities to understand transmission amongst the general adult population.”

“In addition to the primary objective of assessing trends in the level of SARS-CoV-2 infection in women of reproductive age, the study will look at antenatal samples dating back to 2019 to identify the initial date that antibodies to novel coronavirus infection were first present in Canada,” adds collaborator Dr. Isabelle Boucoiran, a gynecologist-obstetrician at CHU Sainte-Justine and a member of the Infectious Diseases Committee of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.

The study will access real-time and archived serological samples, which are taken for routine screening as part of prenatal care for virtually all pregnancies in Canada. Well over 95% of women with pregnancies in Canada who proceed to delivery participate in screening to detect the presence of conditions that are important to detect in pregnancy, such as syphilis and HIV infection, immunity to rubella, and other illnesses. In addition, some provinces archive specimens collected during routine offerings of blood tests for genetic screening in pregnancy and these will also be used in this study.

There are currently approximately 327,000 live births per year in Canada. The CITF-funded serological study plans to analyze 50,000 samples initially and link results with key data, including age, location, and other demographic information. The data will enable a more comprehensive picture of the spread of the virus. 

“This study will provide us urgently needed insights on the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 in this important and representative population,” says Catherine Hankins, Co-Chair of the CITF and Professor of Public and Population Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. “Understanding where SARS-CoV-2 has been spreading in Canada using leftover samples from universal antenatal screening will enhance our knowledge about the extent of asymptomatic infections across the country.”

“Improving our understanding of immunity among different populations, including pregnant women, will help us to track the spread and impact of the virus in the Canadian population. It can also provide insights into the immune response which is key to ending this pandemic,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.


The CITF was established by the Government of Canada in late April 2020 to mobilize studies to understand SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity in Canada and track the spread of the virus in both the general population and priority populations in Canada. The Task Force also aims to shed light on immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a diversity of communities, age brackets, populations, and occupational groups across the nation. To generate this information, the Task Force is drawing on experts from universities and hospitals across Canada and working closely with provincial and territorial public health officials. For more information visit:


COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
Rebecca Burns/Caroline Phaneuf

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