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Proposal to allow HMC City hospital to culture SARS-CoV-2 virus

HCM City’s Health Department has proposed the Ministry of Health permit the city's Hospital for Tropical Diseases to culture the SARS-CoV-2 virus in its laboratory.

 However, while medical experts recognise the advantages of successfully culturing the virus, they also emphasised the need for careful calculation.

A female scientist isolates the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan

Dang Duc Anh, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said that successfully examining the culture of the SARS-CoV-2 virus would help find the origin of the virus, its virulence, and its pathogenic mechanism and immunogenicity of the virus.

He said that studying the culture of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is necessary to help doctors select appropriate treatments for patients.

He said it also provides materials for the development of biological products for specific diagnostic and preventive vaccines.

Associate Professor Do Van Dung, head of the Public Health Department under the HCM City’s University of Medicine and Pharmacy, told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) online newspaper this wouldn't pose a danger to the community. 

HCM City's Hospital for Tropical Diseases already has a Biosafety Level 3 laboratory that meets the high and strict safety standards of the health ministry, he said.

In addition to culturing the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it should develop other techniques, such as researching models of the pathogen of Pseudoviruses or In silico analysis of the genomic landscape of SARS-CoV-2 to assess whether a new strain has resistance to existing antibodies, he said.

Pham Hung Van, chairman of the HCM City’s Association of Clinical Microbiology, said that the health department's proposal is reasonable.

“There is no danger at all,” he said.

He said that everyone who is vaccinated or infected has antibodies, but the SARS-CoV-2 virus is constantly evolving.

Therefore, it must be cultured to see if the existing antibodies are capable of neutralising the circulating virus or not, he said.

He said that the culture of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is necessary because it has a Biosafety Level 3 laboratory.

Carefully calculated

Tran Minh Chau, who is in charge of the microbiology lab of the Hanoi Medical University Hospital, said culturing and isolating the SARS-CoV-2 virus requires a safe laboratory and highly-skilled human resources.

Suppose the HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases laboratory has sufficient facilities, safety and human resources, it is possible to culture and isolate the SARS-CoV- 2 virus to serve the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

However, he said that the cost and human resources must be carefully planned not to cause waste.

Vietnam has two medical establishments that successfully culture and isolate the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He said that the two medical establishments are the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and the HCM City’s Pasteur Institute.

Culturing and isolating the SARS-CoV-2 virus will help the hospital to conduct tests related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus by itself instead of taking samples and send to other units to conduct the tests, he said.

The World Health Organisation warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Therefore, having an additional unit for culturing and isolating the SARS-CoV-2 virus will help Vietnam have more research and data to serve the prevention and control of the pandemic, he said.

A scientist cultures the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyet

Ministry’s response

Phan Trong Lan, director of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the health ministry, said that on January 13, the ministry received an official dispatch No 23/BVNĐ-XN from the HCM City’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases to ask for re-issuance of the certificate of meeting Biosafety Level 3 standards for its laboratory.

The preventive medicine department ordered the HCM City’s Health Department to report on the inspection of the biosafety level 3 laboratory of the hospital following regulations, he said.

He said that in the southern region, the ministry had already assigned the HCM City’s Pasteur Institute to carry out the culture and isolation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

If it needs to immediately research the SARS-CoV-2 virus for pandemic prevention and control, the preventive medicine department requested the local health department to direct a qualified unit to closely coordinate with the HCM City’s Pasteur Institute to implement regulations. 

The culture of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been conducted by many countries around the world and achieved success since the early 2020s.

Scientists from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia, become the first scientists in the world successfully culture the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a patient sample in its laboratory.

The Doherty Institute-grown virus was used to generate an antibody test, which allows the detection of the virus in patients who have not displayed symptoms and were unaware they had the virus.

Vietnam has successfully cultured and isolated SARS-CoV-2 since February 2020, conducted by scientists from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and the HCM City’s Pasteur Institute.

Source: Vietnam News


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