Dr. Kevin Kain (seen above, far right), former Toronto GeoSentinel Site Director and collaborative researcher, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and Director of the Tropical Disease Unit for Toronto General Hospital.
Current and Future Projects
Diseases carried by mosquitoes are on the rise in many parts of the world, including the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, due to climate change, unusual weather patterns, and other environmental factors. To address this, the Foundation is currently supporting investigations of four serious mosquito-borne diseases: dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and malaria, and the life-threatening complications that can result from these diseases.
Future research on diseases carried by mosquitoes and other vectors, such as ticks, will provide important evidence on the medium- and long-term duration of symptoms, the psychosocial impact of these diseases, and the cost to travelers associated with acute disease management during and immediately upon return to their home country.
SUPPORTING THE WORK OF EMERGING RESEARCHERS
The Foundation proudly supports talented up-and-coming researchers through the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) Research Awards in 2023:
- Prochlorperazine versus placebo for the prophylaxis of acute mountain sickness. Principal Investigator (PI): Elan Small, USA
- Yellow fever human infection model. PI: Anna Roukens, the Netherlands
Inflammatory and immunological responses in asymptomatic sub-Saharan African migrants with imported Plasmodium falciparum infection. PI: Begoña Monge Maillo, Spain
- Burden of schistosomiasis and strongyloidiasis in sub-Saharan African participants in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study. PI: Cornelia Staehelin, Switzerland
- Intestinal parasite infections and related risk factors in expatriate and local primary school children in Bali, Indonesia. PI: Richard Christian Suteja, Indonesia
AID IN CRISES
Together with local partners, the Foundation is addressing medical shortages by ensuring that regional hospitals in areas of crisis have the supplies they need.
Funding from the GeoSentinel Foundation was instrumental in rapidly addressing three critical challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, the Foundation provided support to help develop novel diagnostic tools to determine which patients would more likely have severe outcomes and triage them accordingly. This approach has now been validated in multiple countries and is used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in low-resource settings where hospital beds are extremely limited.
Second, since there were no specific treatments or vaccines early in the pandemic, funding from the GeoSentinel Foundation permitted the prompt initiation of trials to determine if any currently available drugs could be repurposed to prevent or treat COVID-19. Foundation funding early in the outbreak enabled the rapid establishment of a multi-site randomized placebo-controlled trial to rigorously test such therapeutics.
Third, with the support of the GeoSentinel Foundation, Biotia, a health-tech company deploying the leading reference library of microbes worldwide, sequenced over 350 SARS-CoV-2 positive clinical specimens in New York City and supported global surveillance efforts, identified and characterized the first breakthrough vaccine case in NY that resulted in hospitalization, and helped profile emerging variants during the COVID-19 delta and omicron surge. This research resulted in six peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations and yielded vital data and insights for public health.
The Foundation also supported:
- A public COVID-19 PCR testing site in New York City at the beginning of the pandemic (April 2020) offering same-day results to quickly identify cases, institute isolation and contact tracing, and break the cycle of transmission.
- The development of a finger-stick test to predict the severity of COVID-19 for individual patients. This non-invasive test helped determine who could recover safely at home and who needed hospitalization.
- Validation of sample pooling for testing multiple nasopharyngeal samples concurrently to reduce the cost of testing for COVID-19.
Lastly, the Foundation supported research by the GeoSentinel network that has provided insight into COVID-19 transmission among Major League Soccer players in relation to travel and which has highlighted the effectiveness of the League’s protocols for limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among players, coaches, and staff. This study demonstrates how modern scientific methods can provide insight into COVID-19 transmission and the effectiveness of measures to control the spread of this disease. The project has resulted in one publication, with additional publications forthcoming.
The Foundation is providing support for a prospective study of the natural history of the virological and serological response to mpox (monkeypox) being conducted by the GeoSentinel Network.
The Foundation proudly supported researchers through the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) Research Awards in 2022:
- Impact of oral iron supplementation on right ventricular function and exercise performance at moderate to high altitude – a pilot study. Principal investigator (PI): Lindsay Forbes, USA
- The TRAvel Vaccine Aids for Decision-making (TRAVAID) Project. PI: Sara McGuinness, Australia
- Development of a recombinant protein immunoassay for cysticercosis screening in the US. PI: Eva Clark, USA
- Japanese encephalitis vaccine risk-benefit analysis tool. PI: Deborah Mills, Australia
- The role of anti-parasitic treatment for returning travelers with persistent abdominal pain and negative molecular stool tests. PI: Asaf Biber, Israel
Together with local partners, the Foundation addressed medical shortages in Ukraine by ensuring that hospitals have the supplies they need.
We’re also exploring how inequity starts in utero and just how profoundly infections during the pregnancy window affect a child’s trajectory in life. We can reap decades of benefit by preventing simple infections that alter the hardwiring of a child’s brain.”
Dr. Kevin Kain
Professor of Medicine at the University of TorontoDirector of the Tropical Disease Unit for Toronto General Hospital