Research team has isolated the COVID-19 virus

A team of researchers from Sunnybrook, McMaster University and the University of Toronto has isolated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

Thanks to nimble collaboration, the team was able to culture the virus from two clinical specimens in a Level 3 containment facility.

“We need key tools to develop solutions to this pandemic. While the immediate response is crucial, longer-term solutions come from essential research into this novel virus,” said Dr. Samira Mubareka, microbiologist and infectious diseases physician at Sunnybrook.

The isolated virus will help researchers in Canada and across the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments and vaccines, and gain a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 biology, evolution and clinical shedding.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Dr. Arinjay Banerjee, NSERC post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, said he knows the collaboration won’t stop there.

“Now that we have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can share this with other researchers and continue this teamwork,” he said. “The more viruses that are made available in this way, the more we can learn, collaborate and share.”

Congratulations to Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak of Sunnybrook and University of Toronto; Dr. Arinjay Banerjee and Dr. Karen Mossman of McMaster University.