On January 24, 2020, Friday the first case of Coronavirus was confirmed in France. The scientists at Institut Pasteur have successfully isolated the strains of coronavirus 2019-nCoV. The quality of the sample taken was good, which further enabled the team to make rapid cell-culture isolation of the new virus.
Another milestone achievement at Institut Pasteur is that they have been able to sequence the whole viral genome of the coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Previously, the Institut Pasteur has actively involved in the outbreak of two viruses the SARS-CoV virus, responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003, and MERS-CoV, responsible for an outbreak that has been underway since 2012 in the Middle East. This has led to an enormous experience they’ve had, which today helped them to sequence the whole genome of a virus, behind the global health emergency. Although, the coronavirus 2019-nCoV is responsible for pneumonia that appeared in China, this novel virus differs from the virus outbreaks of before.
“For both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, cells known as Vero E6 were identified to culture the two coronaviruses,” explains Sylvie van der Werf, Director of the National Reference Center (CNR) for Respiratory Viruses at the Institut Pasteur. “In January 2020, we brought them out of our collection, which is kept under strictly controlled conditions, so that we would be ready as soon as we detected a positive sample for coronavirus 2019-nCoV.”
The experience the scientists have at Institut Pasteur came in handy when a situation like this aroused. The samples from the first case in France was taken, which contained a high viral load. Which when cultured tested positive for the virus on Vero E6 cells. The viruses continued to be cultured over the weekend of January 25-26, 2020. By the morning of Monday, January 27, the culture had already grown!
“We didn’t think that it would grow so quickly,” continues Sylvie Behillil. The rapid growth of the culture may be explained by “the high viral load in the samples,” but also by “the quality of the samples,” adds Vincent Enouf, Deputy Director of the CNR at the Institut Pasteur.
The cells were observed to be damaged and then grouped, which indicated the cells were infected with the virus. Now that the Institut Pasteur’s scientists have access to coronavirus 2019-nCoV, they can set out to improve scientific knowledge about the virus. Research areas like:
Viral Pathogenesis: Understanding how the virus works, how it replicates and interacts with the cell and the host organism, to gain a clearer picture of its pathogenic nature and identify biomarkers for infection or new targets for the development of treatments.
Development of specific treatments: Testing known antiviral molecules that act on the replication cycle of some viruses to assess their therapeutic or even prophylactic potential, and looking for antibodies that may have therapeutic applications.
Vaccination: Based on the virus, developing vaccine approaches that have already been explored for other viruses – Ebola, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV -, to propose a vaccine candidate.
Serology: Analyzing antigen-antibody reactions based on the antibodies found in patients’ blood serum, and developing an effective serology test to screen for the infection among the population.
The research will surely be a boon to mankind. And in times as of today, this is the need of the hour to eradicate this deadly virus as soon as possible.
Source: Institut Pasteur