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SA scientists study live samples of coronavirus for insight into COVID-19

Experts from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Stellenbosch University (SU) have obtained samples from COVID-19 patients at Tygerberg Hospital.

UWC post-doctoral research fellow, Dr Tasnim Suliman, is studying live SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) samples to better understand the virus’ behaviour when exposed to e.g. antibodies and antiviral drug candidates. Picture: Supplied.

CAPE TOWN - South African scientists are now studying live samples of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Experts from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Stellenbosch University (SU) have obtained samples from COVID-19 patients at Tygerberg Hospital.

These samples are being grown in a controlled environment and will allow scientists to understand exactly how the virus infects humans and how it was able to cause COVID-19.

Scientists inoculated the SARS-CoV-2 samples into live cells that were cultured in the lab.

Associate professor at UWC’s Department of Medical Biosciences, Megan Shaw, said that it was vital for this type of research to be conducted on home soil.

“This allows us to, for instance, test any anti-viral drug candidates that we have. We can test them against this virus and see whether it’s stopped the virus from growing. We could test antibodies and whether they prevent the virus from causing infection and we could study that in a laboratory setting,” Shaw said.

Shaw explained they would also be able to investigate the different types of cells that the virus could infect.

“Usually viruses are quite specific with the cells they infect, some cells they infect quite easily and some cells they don’t. That gives us a better understanding of how the virus causes the disease in the human body,” she said.

Post-doctoral fellow at UWC, Dr Tasnim Suliman, performed the analysis at a laboratory that met the necessary biosafety requirements to conduct such research.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.