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Te Tari Moromoroiti me te Ārai Mate

Otago researches have isolated the virus that causes COVID19

Posted by on 10 June 2020 | Comments

After getting an overseas laboratory test for Covid-19 working in New Zealand - with Associate Professor James Ussher - Quiñones-Mateu was in the lab for much of lockdown. He, Postdoctoral Fellow Rhodri Harfoot and a small team grew the virus from patient samples, turning a healthy carpet of cells in a flask discoloured and patchy. They isolated and sequenced the RNA - genetic code - and became the only lab in the country to have the virus.

Source: Stuff

While most people tried to avoid the coronavirus, Miguel Quiñones-Mateu grew it.

It happened under strict controls - he's a virologist, and a professor at the University of Otago's Dunedin campus.Those in the lab had full protection, including a helmet and respirator, shoe covers, double gloves and tape - and a shower on the way out.

"Anything that goes into the lab stays in the lab. You cannot take anything in with you. No paper, nothing. All the labs are equipped with cameras and wifi," he said. Medical and scientific minds - and immune systems - faced a novel enemy when the virus which causes Covid-19 emerged.In two months, everyone became a coronavirologist, Quiñones-Mateu said. The virus spreads well, but isn't as deadly as SARS or MERS.

"Can you imagine if we had a virus that transmits this well, like [the virus which causes Covid-19] but it kills 35 per cent of the people?" he said. "This is bad, but it's not that bad, to be honest."

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Pictured is professor and virologist Miguel Quiñones-Mateu, who holds the Webster Family Chair in Viral Pathogenisis.

Researchers soon wanted to collaborate on everything from cleaning and sanitising products to the Kiwi vaccine effort."If you want to find a way to kill it, as an antiviral, or to prevent it, as a vaccine, you need to have access to the virus," Quiñones-Mateu said.