For all the latest news about the coronavirus, click here.

For all the latest news about the coronavirus, click here.

Collaborative efforts by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Stellenbosch University (SU) have yielded South Africa’s first isolated novel coronavirus culture…

Dr Tasnim Suliman from UWC managed to isolate the culture.

“Having a pure culture of the virus opens doors for research in South Africa.

“Currently, much of the data that exists on this novel virus is based on detecting the genetic material, which is still possible after the virus is ‘dead’ and does not confirm whether the virus is viable and able to cause infection.

“Now we can experiment on the live virus and observe how it actually behaves in the lab,” Suliman said.

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Suliman is a post-doctoral research fellow working under Professor Megan Shaw, an influenza expert who recently relocated from the US to join UWC.

Suliman was able to take samples from Covid-19 patients at Tygerberg Hospital and, using the biosafety level 3 (BSL_3) laboratory at SU’s Medical Virology division, supported by division head Professor Wolfgang Preiser, was successful in growing the virus.

”We didn’t ‘create’ the virus or modify it in any way.

“All we have done is provided the virus with the right conditions to grow, in a space where we are able to harvest a large amount of virus to perform research. Strict safety protocols were followed,” Suliman said.

“All we have done is provided the virus with the right conditions to grow, in a space where we are able to harvest a large amount of virus to perform research. Strict safety protocols were followed,” Suliman said.

This success opens the door for further research opportunities and reference materials for tests across a range of platforms between laboratories.

The virus, for example, can be used to test new antiviral compounds, which could potentially lead to clinical trials.

Suliman believes the country could use this culture as an advantage.

“Although South Africa is the leading African country in science and technology, we remain a resource-limited setting by developed-world standards.

“Therefore, it is a tremendous advantage for us to make this virus available and guide others on how to safely handle the virus locally.”

Shaw said since the introduction of advanced technology, virus cultures have become an almost extinct method in laboratories

“Virus culture was previously used routinely in diagnostic procedures, which has now been replaced with rapid, sophisticated and hi-tech molecular techniques with greater capacity and accuracy, and faster turnaround times.

“Inevitably, virus culture became a dying technique, and the skill is rapidly fading from the scientific community,” Shaw said.

“Inevitably, virus culture became a dying technique, and the skill is rapidly fading from the scientific community,” Shaw said.

There are seven different types of coronavirus, and Dr Suliman has studied coronavirus intensively.

“We have to literally synchronise two naturally occurring biological systems to work together to yield a desired result.

“Fortunately, the growth requirements of SARS-CoV-2 appear to be very similar to that of SARS-CoV-1, which gave us some sort of a road map.

“Since I have worked extensively with SARS-CoV during the 2002/3 outbreak, and given the similarities between SARS-CoV-1 and -2, I was already familiar with what other non-virologists and virologists outside of coronavirology may need time to figure out.

“And with a pandemic like this, time is of the essence,” Suliman said.

Preiser said a collaborative operation between the universities was something to be proud of.

“This disease is very new, and despite amazing progress on many fronts, so much is still unknown.

“So, new aspects emerge every single day, and that’s why it’s so important that we conduct as much research as we can.

“Because of the urgency, much of what normally happens ‘behind the scenes’ is playing out in the open, and it may feel overwhelming.

“But this is a wonderful example of how we can work together to achieve what any one on their own would not have been able to – and in a time of great need. That’s something to be proud of,” Preiser said.

Author: ANA Newswire