Researchers compile mounting research on Covid variants

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With concerns over the increased transmission of COVID-19 variants around the world, a team of IWK Health, Nova Scotia Health and Dalhousie University researchers is gathering information about the variants as fast as it is published. The rapid scoping review aims to compile current evidence as it becomes available to better inform both public health measures and health system arrangements.

Leah Boulos

“Evidence about the COVID-19 variants is being produced at an unbelievably rapid pace,” says Leah Boulos, the Evidence Synthesis Coordinator at the Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit. “Gathering all of that evidence in one place has been a huge effort by our incredible team, and we hope our work will be valuable to decision makers at this hectic time.”

Researchers reviewed over 2500 records identified through their search of which 37 studies and 21 guidance documents were included.

Dr. Janet Curran

“Strong partnerships, like those in this project, between researchers and healthcare administrators and policy makers are needed at this time of rapid change to facilitate evidence-driven health system transformation,” says IWK co-lead, Dr. Janet Curran, Quality and Patient Safety (QPS) Applied Research Chair. “Evidence suggests there is an increase in hospitalization due to the variants and there appears to be a trend towards increase risk of death. Increased risk of variants of concern (VOC) household transmission makes isolation, testing, and contact tracing critical components of infection control.”

As of April 2021, three COVID-19 VOC have been detected in more than 132 countries. Over 143 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide according to Johns Hopkins University, with 4.5 million new cases identified in the first week of April alone. A further three million people have died as a result of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Increased numbers of COVID-19 cases are causing significant concerns around identifying and enforcing public health measures to control the spread of the virus and ensuring health systems can manage current and new admissions.

The report, Public Health and Health Systems Impacts of SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern Rapid Scoping Review can be viewed here. An update is scheduled in the coming weeks as research continues to evolve, including the addition of a fourth variant.