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Scientists Create Coronavirus Clone In Lab To Find COVID-19 Cure

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Monit Khanna
Monit KhannaUpdated on Aug 20, 2020, 16:47 IST
Indiatimes

Researchers are rushing full speed ahead to create a cure for the novel coronavirus. We’re already seeing vaccine makers rushing to give us the silver bullet to cure COVID-19.?

However, there are several mysteries that still remain that other researchers are trying to decode.?

covid-19 hybrid virus VSV-SARS-CoV-2 Representational Image: Reuters

Most researchers, however, are unable to do so as working with COVID-19 since the virus is so dangerous, it requires a high-level biosafety condition, requiring scientists handling COVID-19 wear full-body biohazard suits with specialised ventilation systems. Most labs don’t have access to such equipment and this only limits humanity to learn more about the deadly coronavirus.

However, researchers have found a fix for that. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a hybrid virus that mimics COVID-19 causing coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which will help scientists study COVID-19 but not be as dangerous as to require a high biosafety level facility.?

Researchers took a vesicular stomatitis virus -- commonly found in cattle, horses and pig and causes flu-like illness for 3 to 5 days -- and removed the surface protein gene on it with one from SARS-CoV-2 called 'spike'. This basically enabled the newly created virus to attack cells in a similar fashion as SARS-CoV-2 but it isn’t loaded with necessary genetics to cause the disease. This new hybrid has been named VSV-SARS-CoV-2.

The new virus is also recognised by antibodies, just like the COVID-19 causing coronavirus. The antibodies that proved beneficial against the hybrid virus also proved beneficial against the real deal.?

covid-19 hybrid virus VSV-SARS-CoV-2 Representational Image: DPA

Sean Whelan, PhD, the Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology explained, “Humans certainly develop antibodies against other SARS-CoV-2 proteins, but it’s the antibodies against spike that seem to be most important for protection. So as long as a virus has the spike protein, it looks to the human immune system like SARS-CoV-2, for all intents and purposes.”

He added, “With this surrogate virus, you can take serum, plasma or antibodies and do high-throughput analyses at BSL-2 levels, which every lab has, without a risk of getting infected. And we know that it correlates almost perfectly with the data we get from bona fide infectious SARS-CoV-2.”

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