CHILD Cohort Study now a treasure trove of health data 10 years later
A database of information and samples have led to several key discoveries about allergies and other conditions that can often show up early on in life.
Researchers with a longitudinal study, called CHILD, have been following Canadian moms and their children for a decade.
Originally pregnant mothers were recruited in 2010 and 2011 by the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study at four Canadian sites, Winnipeg among them.
The Manitoba CHILD study lead, Dr. Elinor Simons, said even though her site is the smallest centre,it is actually the largest study site with close to 1,000 families enrolled.
One of those families is Krista Bonds and her now 10-year-old daughter Molly.
At Molly’s 10-yearstudy check-up, Krista told CTVNews she vividly remembers being very pregnant and seeing a booth for the study at a trade show.
At the time the study was only going to last five years and its focus was on allergies and asthma.
“I thought it would be pretty cool for her to be a partof a study to learn more about allergies,” said Krista about Molly, who was growing in her belly at the time she signed up.
Krista also remembers worrying about allergies at that time because there weremixed messages about what she should or shouldn’t do in those early days.
“Don’t feed them peanut butter, feed them peanut butter.Don’t eat eggs while you’re pregnant.You know?” she said.
In the decade the Bonds and the other families have been participating, answers to some of these questions have been answered using the samples they provided.
Take Dr. Simons’s research for example. It looked into when to introduce peanuts to children who are not at high-risk for a peanut allergy.
Her study showed in the general population it is better to introduce peanuts to children before one year of age.
“That data would probably be hard to collect these days because the pendulum has shifted so much towards early intervention,” Dr. Simons said.“We had this prospective data collected before we really even knew it was a question.”
Even more key discoveries have also been published using the CHILD data on other food allergies.
More recently on the mental health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also on asthma and obesity.
Research scientist Meghan Azad, who started as a postdoctoralstudent with CHILD, is now the study’s deputy director.
Her body of work in breastfeeding has used the CHILD database.
“It’s just an amazing resource because at the same point in time if I had decided to start a new study it just wouldn’t have been feasible,” Azadsaid.“Me, as one young investigator to recruit thousands of women, collect samples, analyze them, follow the children for many years.It just gives a head start to so many research questions when all that data is already there.”
She told CTVNews she has heard others call the CHILD database a Canadian treasure and she agrees.
“It’s something that really could never be replicated and we are only at the tip of the iceberg,” she said.“There are so many samples still in the freezer that probably will hold secrets that will cure diseases or answer big questions using technologies that don’t even exist yet today.”
The next phase of the study will follow these same children until they turn thirteen. An important age, said Dr. Simons, because they’ll enter intopuberty.
“We’ve been able to answer a lot of questions about allergies and other conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis that happen early and a little bit about asthma,” said Dr. Simons.“Increasingly as the children now go from eight to 10 years, the next wave will now be from 12 to 13 years.We’ll be able to look at other metabolic conditions, cardiovascular, diabetes in collaboration with other researchers at CHRIM.”
Azadsaid the study is also consulting with experts on newer health-related issues like screen time, social media and cannabis use.
Her dream for CHILD is to follow these same children into adulthood and eventually enroll their children as well.
“The more people know about it and the more people come with new questions, the more exciting it will be.”
Molly said she would be in for the long term.
“Because I could help more people who have sickness and illness so it would help them feel better if I could help.”