A team of Canadian researchers have successfully isolated the agent behind the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, a press release from Sunnybrook Research Institute announced Thursday.
According to Sunnybrook, their researchers teamed up with McMaster University and the University of Toronto to collaboratively isolate severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) outside the body.
The development “will help researchers in Canada and across the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments and vaccines, and gain a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 biology, evolution and clinical shedding,” the institute announced.
As highlighted by The Independent, this is not the first time the virus has been isolated: “Chinese scientists first isolated the virus, and research teams in Australia and Italy are also among those who have isolated and grown samples of the virus in laboratories.”
“However,” the report noted, “as viruses continuously mutate and evolve, there are now several strains of the coronavirus, which are collectively known as SARS-CoV-2.” The Independent explained:
Covid-19 is the name given to the clinical illness these viruses cause.
Every time a virus infects someone and replicates in their respiratory tract, it mutates, with about half a dozen genetic mutations occurring. In the current outbreak, the mutations have led to two main strains of the virus emerging. The one most closely associated with the outbreak in Wuhan is more prevalent, and it is reportedly more virulent. The second one is less prevalent so far, and it has a lesser impact on its host, research shows.
Each isolation of the virus, said The Independent, “allows scientists to see how quickly the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mutating, and what the implications of the mutations may be for humans.”
Sunnybrook microbiologist and infectious diseases physician Dr. Samira Mubarek, who helped with the effort, said that the global community needs “key tools to develop solutions to this pandemic.”
“While the immediate response is crucial, longer-term solutions come from essential research into this novel virus,” Dr. Mubarek emphasized.
Dr. Rob Kozak, a clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook on the collective research team, advocated for further scientific collaboration.
“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” he said. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”
“Now that we have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can share this with other researchers and continue this teamwork,” Dr. Arinjay Banerjee, NSERC post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, added. “The more viruses that are made available in this way, the more we can learn, collaborate and share.”
On Friday morning, President Donald Trump said via Twitter that mass testing for the public was on its way, after his administration apparently had to clean up issues at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) “complicated” by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
…. Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
The researchers on the team that isolated the virus include (via Sunnybrook):
Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak of Sunnybrook and University of Toronto; Dr. Arinjay Banerjee and Dr. Karen Mossman of McMaster University.