null Pediatric researchers in Montreal unite to tackle infection and immunity on two different fronts

Two inter-institutional teams start research projects to address rare immune diseases and antibiotic overuse

Feb. 13, 2020

Source: McGill University. Researchers at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre – the Children’s - and the CHU Sainte-Justine are coming together within the scope of two new projects, funded under the auspices of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4): improving the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial pneumonia and better understanding rare immune disorders.

Improving the appropriateness of antibiotic use to treat pneumonia

Antibiotic overuse is an important cause of bacterial antibiotic resistance. Most pediatric pneumonias are caused by viruses, for which antibiotics are not necessary. However, children sick enough to be hospitalized for such lung infections typically receive antibiotics because there are currently no adequate tests to exclude the possibility of bacterial pneumonia, which requires prompt antibiotic treatment.

The first project, led by Dr. Jesse Papenburg at the Children’s and Dr. Jocelyn Gravel at CHU Sainte-Justine, will evaluate the feasibility of collecting high quality samples and performing advanced laboratory and statistical analyses to test new ways to distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia in children. If successful, this approach will improve the diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia, allowing doctors to safely use fewer antibiotics, the key to fighting antibiotic resistance.

Developing innovative modeling of primary immunodeficiencies

Rare chronic immune disorders, known as primary immunodeficiencies (PID), represent a large, heterogeneous group of diseases responsible for a wide range of illnesses including susceptibility to infection, autoimmunity, allergies and cancer. Advances in DNA sequencing have led to the identification of many genetic changes that are linked to PID. However, confirming which genes are responsible for PID in a given patient can be challenging. This may lead to over- or under-diagnosis of PID, with impacts on patient care.

Led by Dr. Fabien Touzot at CHU Sainte-Justine and Dr. Constantin Polychronakos at the Children’s, the second project aims to establish an innovative research platform that will identify which genetic changes underlie the development of PID, combining the strengths and resolution of cutting-edge technologies including stem cells, genome engineering, and pre-clinical models. This innovative platform will direct patient diagnosis and care and permit testing of therapies in participating patients.

First pediatric grants for MI4

Established in April 2018, MI4 aims to foster interdisciplinary research to discover, develop and implement innovative solutions for infectious and immune threats to human health. The pediatric seed fund grant components of MI4, made possible through equal contributions from the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, are designed to establish new, inter-institutional translational research teams linking world-class pediatric investigators at the two institutions to support preliminary innovative new ideas, and proof-of-concept studies with the potential to improve child health. The projects will each receive $150,000 over two years to carry out their work.

“Infectious and immune diseases are among the greatest threats facing humanity, at a level on par with climate change,” explains Dr. Don Sheppard, Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University, scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and Director of MI4. “We are grateful to the two hospital foundations for their generous support, which allows us to award the first two, of what we hope to be many, pediatric grants.”

“Having worked in both institutions and having experienced first-hand the high level of research that happens in our two pediatric hospitals, I am delighted to see the emergence of new collaborations, aiming at improving children’s care,” adds Dr. Caroline Quach, Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Université de Montréal, Clinician scientist at CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre and scientific lead on the MI4 initiative for the CHU Sainte-Justine.

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation

The CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation’s mission is to engage the community and support the CHU Sainte-Justine in its pursuit of excellence and its commitment to providing children and mothers with one of the highest levels of healthcare in the world, now and in the future.

About the CHU Sainte-Justine

The Sainte-Justine university hospital centre (CHU Sainte-Justine) is the largest mother-child centre in Canada and the second largest pediatric hospital in North America. A member of the Université de Montréal’s extended network of excellence in health (RUIS), Sainte- Justine has 5,457 employees, including 1,532 nurses and nursing assistants; 1,000 other healthcare professionals; 520 physicians, dentists and pharmacists; 822 residents and over 204 researchers; 411 volunteers; and 4,416 interns and students in a wide range of disciplines. Sainte-Justine has 484 beds, including 67 at the Centre de réadaptation Marie Enfant (CRME), the only centre in Quebec that is exclusively dedicated to pediatric rehabilitation. The World Health Organization has recognized the CHU Sainte-Justine as a “health promoting hospital.”

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 210 research investigators, including over 110 clinician-scientists, as well as 450 graduate and postgraduate students focused on finding innovative prevention means, faster and less invasive treatments, as well as personalized approaches to medicine. The Center is part of the CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child centre in Canada and second pediatric center in North America.

About the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation

The mission of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation is to inspire and mobilize the community to support innovation in research, teaching and care at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the pediatric teaching hospital for McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, and pediatric research at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. Since its inception in 1973, the Foundation has raised over $500 million, which has transformed the lives of sick children through innovative research and teaching projects, and cutting-edge care. For more information, please visit

About the Montreal Children’s Hospital

The Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) of the McGill University Health Centre is a tertiary care pediatric teaching hospital affiliated with McGill University. The MCH prides itself on providing patient and family centred care. What makes the Children's unique is the true spirit of the hospital—a wonderful blend of caring, innovation, uncompromising standards, and dedication to public service that has characterized the institution since the beginning. Over the years, the hospital has become known for its wealth of expertise in various fields, particularly cardiology and cardiac surgery, trauma care, neurology and neurosurgery.

About the Research Institute of the Montreal University Health Centre

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and healthcare research centre. The Institute, which is affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, is the research arm of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)—an academic health centre located in Montreal, Canada, that has a mandate to focus on complex care within its community. The RI- MUHC supports over 420 researchers and close to 1,200 research trainees devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental, clinical and health outcomes research at the Glen and the Montreal General Hospital sites of the MUHC. Its research facilities offer a dynamic multidisciplinary environment that fosters collaboration and leverages discovery aimed at improving the health of individual patients across their lifespan. The RI-MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de recherche du Québec — Santé (FRQS).

About MI4

CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation
CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre
The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation
Research Institute of the Montreal University Health Centre
McGill MI4