Nav: Home

Institut Pasteur isolates strains of coronavirus 2019-nCoV detected in France

January 31, 2020

As well as sequencing the whole genome of coronavirus 2019-nCoV, the Institut Pasteur continued to work on the samples taken from the first confirmed cases. The quality of these initial samples enabled rapid cell-culture isolation of the new virus. The Institut Pasteur's scientists now have access to the virus responsible for the infection. The isolation of the virus paves the way for new diagnostic, therapeutic and prophylactic approaches.

With the whole viral genome of coronavirus 2019-nCoV having recently been sequenced at the Institut Pasteur, the isolation of strains of coronavirus 2019-nCoV detected in France has now been successfully finalized, in a very short space of time, using the samples taken from the first confirmed French cases.

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, responsible for the cases of pneumonia that emerged in China (see the Institut Pasteur's fact sheet on the Wuhan coronavirus - page in French), differs from two other viruses that are well known for causing respiratory outbreaks in recent years: the SARS-CoV virus, responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003, and MERS-CoV, responsible for an outbreak that has been under way since 2012 in the Middle East.

The Institut Pasteur was actively involved in tackling these previous outbreaks, which yielded valuable lessons for the current situation. "For both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, cells known as Vero E6 were identified to culture the two coronaviruses," explains Sylvie van der Werf, Director of the National Reference Center (CNR) for Respiratory Viruses at the Institut Pasteur. "In January 2020, we brought them out of our collection, which is kept under strictly controlled conditions, so that we would be ready as soon as we detected a positive sample for coronavirus 2019-nCoV."

Extremely rapid growth of the virus in culture

The Institut Pasteur was therefore well prepared, and on Friday January 24, 2020, the very day that the first cases were confirmed, it began the process of culturing the samples that had tested positive for the virus on Vero E6 cells. "Using detection methods, we had observed a high viral load in the samples taken from the patients in hospital in Paris. This enabled us to identify which samples should be cultured first," says Sylvie Behillil, Deputy Director of the CNR at the Institut Pasteur.

The viruses continued to be cultured over the weekend of January 25-26, 2020. By the morning of Monday January 27, the culture had already grown! "We didn't think that it would grow so quickly," continues Sylvie Behillil. The rapid growth of the culture may be explained by "the high viral load in the samples," but also by "the quality of the samples," adds Vincent Enouf, Deputy Director of the CNR at the Institut Pasteur.

"We could see the cells becoming damaged and then grouping together, which can indicate that they have been infected. But we did not observe this cytopathic effect for all the inoculated samples; that reassured us that we had managed to isolate the strains, and this was then confirmed by additional analyses."

Virus 2019-nCoV now available for research

Now that the Institut Pasteur's scientists have access to coronavirus 2019-nCoV, they can set out to improve scientific knowledge about the virus.

Research will focus on four main areas.
  • Serology. Analyzing antigen-antibody reactions based on the antibodies found in patients' blood serum, and developing an effective serology test to screen for the infection among the population.
    NB: This is not a rapid diagnostic test for hospital use; it is a test to identify seroconversion in the population.
  • Development of specific treatments. Testing known antiviral molecules that act on the replication cycle of some viruses to assess their therapeutic or even prophylactic potential, and looking for antibodies that may have therapeutic applications.
  • Vaccination. Based on the virus, developing vaccine approaches that have already been explored for other viruses - Ebola, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV -, with the aim of proposing a vaccine candidate.
  • Viral pathogenesis. Understanding how the virus works, how it replicates and interacts with the cell and the host organism, to gain a clearer picture of its pathogenic nature and identify biomarkers for infection or new targets for the development of treatments.
-end-
The National Reference Center (CNR) for Respiratory Viruses at the Institut Pasteur in Paris is one of WHO's reference laboratories for coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

A total of eight people from the CNR and two from the P2M sequencing platform have been working on the virus this week and will continue to monitor the outbreak in France.In response to the announcement of the first cases and the declaration of the outbreak by the Chinese authorities, the Institut Pasteur has set up a task force for the novel coronavirus

The isolation of coronavirus 2019-nCoV clears a vital hurdle for research, which has now begun. The Institut Pasteur immediately set up a task force to mobilize its experts with the aim of developing diagnostic, prevention and treatment tools as quickly as possible to tackle the novel coronavirus.

Several Institut Pasteur teams are represented on the task force, which will focus its research on various scientific areas:
  • Understanding more about the virus and its pathogenesis; ;
  • Developing new diagnostic tools and searching for antibodies that may have therapeutic applications;
  • Vaccine development;
  • Epidemiology and modeling to develop outbreak control strategies.


Institut Pasteur

Related Infection Articles:

Halving the risk of infection following surgery
New analysis by the University of Leeds and the University of Bern of more than 14,000 operations has found that using alcoholic chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) halves the risk of infection in certain types of surgery when compared to the more commonly used povidone-iodine (PVI).
How plants shut the door on infection
A new study by an international team including University of Maryland scientists has discovered the key calcium channel responsible for closing plant pores as an immune response to pathogen exposure.
Sensing infection, suppressing regeneration
UIC researchers describe an enzyme that blocks the ability of blood vessel cells to self-heal.
Boost to lung immunity following infection
The strength of the immune system in response to respiratory infections is constantly changing, depending on the history of previous, unrelated infections, according to new research from the Crick.
Is infection after surgery associated with increased long-term risk of infection, death?
Whether experiencing an infection within the first 30 days after surgery is associated with an increased risk of another infection and death within one year was the focus of this observational study that included about 660,000 veterans who underwent major surgery.
Revealed: How E. coli knows how to cause the worst possible infection
The discovery could one day let doctors prevent the infection by allowing E. coli to pass harmlessly through the body.
UK study shows most patients with suspected urinary tract infection and treated with antibiotics actually lack evidence of this infection
New research presented at this week's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, Netherlands (April 13-16, 2019) shows that only one third of patients that enter the emergency department with suspected urinary tract infection (UTI) actually have evidence of this infection, yet almost all are treated with antibiotics, unnecessarily driving the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
Bacteria in urine doesn't always indicate infection
Doctors should think carefully before testing patients for a urinary tract infection (UTI) to avoid over-diagnosis and unnecessary antibiotic treatment, according to updated asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Subsidies for infection control to healthcare institutions help reduce infection levels
Researchers compared three types of infection control subsidies and found that under a limited budget, a dollar-for-dollar matching subsidy, in which policymakers match hospital spending for infection control measures, was the most effective at reducing the number of hospital-acquired infections.
Dengue virus infection may cause severe outcomes following Zika virus infection during pregnancy
This study is the first to report a possible mechanism for the enhancement of Zika virus progression during pregnancy in an animal model.
More Infection News and Infection Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.