Researchers recently developed a technology for COVID-19, something that will enable them to study the virus, particularly its evolution inside the test tube.
Variants of viruses, according to Phys.org, like SARS-CoV-2, the one that causes COVID-19, can now be quickly examined in the laboratory, even prior to their emergence in nature, and becoming a major public health problem.
Specifically, the University of Queensland, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Monash University and Queensland Health have devised a technology to manipulate viruses that synthetically enable rapid analysis and map new potential variants of the virus.
Professor Alexander Khromykh, UQ's lead researcher, said the newly-developed technology was perfect for use during a global health crisis like COVID-19.
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Professor Khromykh explained, such a technique needs to provide the ability to answer questions about whether potential strains are vulnerable to a particular vaccine or drug, even prior to their emergence in nature.
Up until to date, he added, "we've mostly just waited" and responded to viral variants as they arise, and in the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2, the world has been hit by South African, UK and Indian variants, among others.
Now, the professor elaborated, the massive "experiment" can be mimicked, going on in nature, where such mutations are popping up because of natural selection, although it can be done safely in a strictly regulated, not to mention, highly-controlled biosecurity lab environment.
This process developed by the UQ utilizes copies of fragments from the viral genetic material to collect the functional viral genome inside a test tube.
Enabling Scientists to Generate Virus Variants Fast
This technology for COVID-19 developed enables scientists to generate virus variants fast, not to mention evaluate their potential to escape antiviral treatments, as well as vaccine-induced immunity.
QIMR Berghofer assisted in examining infection and disease resulting from the test tube-made virus in pre-clinical prototypes to guarantee that the technology was able to produce authentic viruses.
Meanwhile, QIMR Berghofer's Professor Andreas Suhrbier said the study was vital, as viruses change every time. Now, added the professor, changes in viruses like SARS-CoV-2 could already be monitored. More so, variants can be seen, those that may not react to specific vaccines and anti-viral treatments.
She also said they could examine if potential variants are more or less infectious in mice and discover which drugs and vaccines will work more effectively.
A similar UQ News report specified that the expert also shared it is great to finally have the essential tool and begin addressing such challenging questions.
The study, A versatile reverse genetics platform for SARS-CoV-2 and other positive-strand RNA viruses, published in Nature Communications, featured alliances from research groups which include Associate Professor Daniel Watterson, Dr. Jody Hobson-Peters, Professor Paul Young and Professor Roy Hall from UQ; the team of Professor Jason Mackenzie at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity; the team of Associate Professor Fasseli Coulibaly at Monash University; Frederick Moore and the team at Forensic and Scientific Services Public Health Virology at Queensland Health.
Related information about coronavirus variants test in the lab is shown on Cleveland Clinic's YouTube video below:
Check out more news and information on COVID-19 on Science Times.