Meet the Indian-origin researcher who helped isolate coronavirus strainLast updated on Mar 19, 2020, 08:24 pm
A team of researchers in Canada recently managed to isolate the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, an Indian-origin researcher, Dr. Arinjay Banerjee, was also among the team that accomplished this feat.
Dr. Banerjee (29) now offers an insight into how they managed to isolate the virus and why this work is essential in tackling the outbreak.
Banerjee is an alumnus of St. Xavier's, NIV-Pune
Born in Kolkata, Banerjee attained a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry from Mumbai's St. Xavier's College.
He completed his Master's degree in Virology from Pune's National Institute of Viology and Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.
Banerjee's Ph.D. involved researching bats—the very organism blamed for COVID-19—and how they maintain a benign relationship with viruses that are lethal in other mammals.
Banerjee's team isolated virus from two patients
Banerjee was among the joint team of researchers from the Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), McMaster University and the University of Toronto that isolated SARS-CoV-2.
Banerjee is an NSERC post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University.
The team isolated the viral strain using samples extracted from two COVID-19 patients in a Level 3 containment facility.
They announced the successful isolation of the novel coronavirus strain last week.
Here are the other members of the research team
Besides Banerjee, other researchers on the team that isolated the viral strain include Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak from SRI and University of Toronto, and Dr. Karen Mossman of McMaster University.
How can this research help tackle the current outbreak?
According to a press release from SRI, the isolated virus can help researchers worldwide develop better testing and vaccine for the disease.
Overall, this research can also help us gain a better understanding of the virus and how it affects humans.
Banerjee said, "Now that we have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can share this with other researchers and continue this teamwork."
'SARS-CoV-2 more contagious than SARS, MERS; less pathogenic'
Speaking to The Times of India, Banerjee said, "This coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) seems to be more easily transmissible relative to other coronaviruses, including ones that cause SARS and MERS," adding that it is also less pathogenic (disease-causing).
Banerjee also addressed the rumors that the virus is a bio-weapon created by China, saying, "This coronavirus was not made in a lab. Please do not spread rumors."
Globally, 9,000 people have died from COVID-19
First detected in China's Wuhan city in December, COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. It has killed nearly 9,000 and sickened 2 lakh people globally.
In India, 173 cases have been reported, out of which, 19 have recovered and four have died.
COVID-19 causes flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, and breathing difficulties.
Severe cases witness pneumonia, multiple organ failure, or death.