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SA scientists now able to study how COVID-19 reacts in certain conditions

Experts from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Stellenbosch University have collaborated to grow a pure culture of the virus.

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 - A coronavirus vaccine remains elusive, but the world isn't giving up.

In South Africa, scientists are now better able to study exactly how the virus functions and reacts when exposed to certain conditions.

Experts from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Stellenbosch University have collaborated to grow a pure culture of the virus.

UWC post-doctoral research fellow Dr Tasnim Suliman is one of the people is working on the team.

“What we have at the moment is a pure culture of the virus, which means it’s highly concentrated, pure form of the virus, which we can use for downstream experiments. It’s basically a tool with which we can do other experiments on the virus itself.”

Tightly regulated safety measures are in place at Stellenbosch University’s Medical Virology Biosafety Level 3 laboratory where this research is carried out.

“When we enter through the first door, once it closes behind us we enter into the second door, which is a little room where we get dressed, put on boots, two pairs of gloves, a gown or a jumpsuit and a powered respirator and sleeve covers.”

This is not Suliman's first rodeo. For her Ph.D. studies, she did extensive research on SARS that broke out in the early 2000s. That syndrome was also caused by a coronavirus.