University of Portsmouth team looking to 'crack the genetic code' of Covid-19

A TEAM from the city’s university are looking to ‘crack the genetic code’ of Covid-19 to help develop a vaccine and monitor the spread of the virus.

Saturday, 23rd May 2020, 4:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th May 2020, 5:44 pm

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth have been deployed to the research front line to analyse the genetic code of the virus.

It is hoped that findings will ‘provide significant resources in the development of potential treatments and vaccine’.

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Dr Sam Robson examining results of the research trial.

Increased understanding of how the virus mutates as it spreads across the country will provide information on whether or not outbreaks are due to introductions from outside or ongoing transmission within the community as well as the impact of social distancing.

The university have invested £40,000 to support the Faculty of Science and Health team, led by Dr Sam Robson. The research is part of a national £20 million genetic surveillance programme.

Dr Robson said: ‘This is a strategic attempt to further understand the virus and help to track, predict and ultimately stop the spread of Covid-19.

‘Understanding how the virus changes over time will allow us to understand how it’s adapting, spreading, and the impact on patients.

‘Genomic data resources will also help scientists identify potential targets for treating the disease.’

Scientists explained that as the virus moves from person to person, it can change, acting as a genetic fingerprint for tracing transmission.

The study will sequence the virus from patients testing positive to quickly determine the version of the virus causing infection, which can be used to track how it is spreading throughout the UK. Particular attention will be paid to clusters of cases in hospitals and care homes.

Professor Sherria Hoskins, executive dean at the university’s faculty, said: ‘We’re very fortunate at the University of Portsmouth to have the research expertise and equipment that we can redeploy to help our understanding of the spread of this pandemic.

‘This key data will feed into a national effort to improve the outcomes of this disease and will be crucial to the development of a robust vaccine programme.’

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, added: ‘Genomic sequencing will help us understand Covid-19 and its spread. It can also guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions.’

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