Assam lab isolates COVID-19 virus

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The Regional Medical Research Centre for NE Region at Dibrugarh in Assam has become the fourth laboratory in the country to successfully isolate the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus which can be used in the production of vaccine against the contagion in future, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday.

Scientists at the RMRC have isolated the COVID-19 virus in VERO-CCL81 cell line in the BSL-3 level lab available at the institute, he told a press conference here.

RMRC, Dibrugarh is the third government laboratory in the country, after NIV (ICMR Lab), Pune and CCMB (CSIR lab), Hyderabad, and fourth overall after Bharat Biotech, a private biotechnology laboratory in Hyderabad), to isolate the virus in tissue culture.

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The scientists used an immortal cell line VERO-CCL81, derived from kidney epithelial cell lines from green African monkey, which expresses the important ACE2 receptor needed by SARS- CoV-2 for cellular entry, Sarma said quoting the researchers.

“In layman’s term, the significance of the COVID-19 virus isolation by the team of scientists from RMRC, Dibrugarh, is that live and viable SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) can now be produced in the laboratory in abundance and as and when required,” he said.

This is important for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine where viruses grown in the laboratory are inactivated by heat or chemical and purified for use as vaccines after pre-clinical and clinical trials, he said.

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To date, the center has conducted almost 50,000 diagnostic test reports of COVID-19 for the people of the northeast.

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