Singapore Scientists Contribute in Fight Against Wuhan Coronavirus
A collaborative effort by clinicians and scientists achieves successfully grown novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from an infected patient.
SINGAPORE | 31st January 2020
First identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province in China, the novel coronavirus has since spread quickly across the world. As of 31st January 2020, the number of cases worldwide has reached approximately 9,821 and a death toll of 213.
With parts of China currently in lockdown and travel bans in place, researchers and healthcare professionals throughout the world have been racing to develop diagnostic tools and formulate vaccines in a bid to combat this deadly virus.
Scientists in Singapore are no exception, a recent statement by Duke-NUS Medical School announced that a team of their scientists with close collaboration with scientists and clinicians from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and Ministry of Health (MOH) have successfully grown in a culture the Wuhan coronavirus.
As the third country in the world to culture the virus outside of China, the Singapore scientists will be using it for developing new diagnostic methods, monitoring potential mutation and testing for potential vaccine and pharmaceuticals.
“This is a crucial step forward for Singapore and neighbouring countries in response to the evolving coronavirus outbreak. We will continue our efforts and do our best to serve the nation, the region and the world in controlling this outbreak,” said Professor Wang Linfa, Director of the Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, who is one of the most recognised international experts on emerging zoonotic viruses and is currently serving on multiple WHO committees on the coronavirus.
“The ability to grow the virus not only allows us to accurately diagnose it but also to develop vaccines and cures. We are pleased that our collaborative effort has brought Singapore a step closer to finding a solution to a problem that is affecting many individuals worldwide,” said Associate Professor Jenny Low, Senior Consultant, Department of Infectious Diseases, Singapore General Hospital.
“Our team has successfully cultured the coronavirus in Singapore within our own containment laboratory (ABSL3). This is highly significant as it will accelerate the assessment of trial vaccines’ effectiveness and lead to the development of early-diagnostic tests to detect the virus in asymptomatic patients,” said Assistant Professor Danielle Anderson, Scientific Director of the Duke-NUS ABSL3 facility, who has been leading the work in the facility
On 22nd January 2020, Singapore had its first case of the Wuhan virus which was identified in a 66-year-old who flew in to Singapore with his family form Guangzhou on a China Southern flight. The number of cases has since escalated over the next weeks to reach a total of 13 cases as of 31st January 2020.
The Singapore Government has also stepped up their measures with flight cessation of inbound flights form Wuhan, China and mandatory quarantine for recent travellers to Hubei province.
Those returning from China to Singapore in the past week would also expect a 14-day compulsory leave of absence from work or school in order to monitor their condition.
Temperature screenings have also been implemented at all points of entry including land, air and sea immigration checkpoints.
The Government also announced on 30th January 2020 that about 5.2 million surgical masks will be distributed to a total of 1.37 million households in Singapore. Emphasizing that only those who are unwell should be wearing the surgical masks. These will be handed out at 89 community centres and 654 resident's committee centres from 1st February to 9th February.
The latest updates and information on the Wuhan coronavirus found in these sources: