Published On: March 12, 2024

In this interview, Fernando Val and his colleagues in Manaus, Brazil (FMT-HVD) explain the work they have been doing on COVID-19 and how their unique cohort will contribute to the surveillance of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Sample room at FMT-HVD, Manaus

Can you briefly explain who you are and what you do?

We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers based in Manaus, in the western Brazilian Amazon. The team, led by Professor Marcus Lacerda, has over 20 years of experience in conducting clinical investigation on tropical diseases. Our clinical research site is located at the Fundação de Medicina Tropical Dr. Heitor Vieira Dourado (FMT-HVD), Manaus, Brazil.

What types of cohorts have you established during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The Manaus team conducted two major clinical trials in patients with severe COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic: one with chloroquine and the other with methylprednisolone.

The team also established the COVACManaus cohort to address a number of questions, including the immune response to heterologous booster vaccines in people with comorbidities who are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 (COVACManaus2).  It is the data from these cohorts that we are working on in ENDVOC. Cohort recruitment has been completed and we are currently analysing the data.

What would you say is the added value of your cohort?

The main added feature of the COVACManaus cohorts is that all the individuals included are adults with comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc. These comorbidities put them at a much higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying of COVID-19. In total, the cohort recruited 4,401 participants between 18 and 49 years of age and living in Manaus, one of the first epicenters of COVID-19 in Brazil. They have been followed up for 12 months. There are very few cohorts in low- or middle-income countries with these characteristics.

How will this cohort contribute to END-VOC’s goal?

The COVACManaus cohorts will contribute to the understanding of the impact of SARS-CoV-2 variants on vaccine-induced immunity in patients with comorbidities. Specifically, we are evaluating the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the magnitude and type of immune response induced by these vaccines. We are also investigating markers of vaccine protection (i.e. correlates of protective immunity) and markers associated with the duration of this immune protection. The cohort will also allow us to characterize the frequency and clinical profile of Long Covid (or post-Covid condition) in this population, the time to disease and cure, and its impact on daily and work activities.

Inversely, how will you benefit from participating in the END-VOC project?

Manaus was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Amazon in 2020. Being in the END-VOC consortium will help us understand our results from a global and interdisciplinary perspective. We believe that exchanging knowledge with the international partners of the project will help to develop preventive health actions for future waves of COVID-19 infections or other infectious diseases. The consortium also enables networking between excellent research groups in different fields of expertise, which enables new partnerships for future collaborations.


Interview by Adelaida Sarukhan

Photo: Facilities at FMT-HVD, Manaus