Lab-made virus mimics SARS-CoV-2: Washington university rese
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A hybrid virus that will enable more scientists to enter the fight against the pandemic, developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The researchers genetically modified a mild virus by swapping one of its genes for one from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The resulting hybrid virus infects cells and is recognized by antibodies just like SARS-CoV-2, but can be handled under ordinary laboratory safety conditions.

To create a model of SARS-CoV-2 that would be safer to handle, researchers started with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), occasionally infects people, causing a mild flu-like illness that lasts three to five days.

Then removed VSV's surface-protein gene and replaced it with the one from SARS-CoV-2, known as a spike. The switch created a new virus that targets cells like SARS-CoV-2 but lacks the other genes needed to cause severe disease. They dubbed the hybrid virus VSV-SARS-CoV-2.

The hybrid virus could help scientists evaluate a range of antibody-based preventives and treatments for COVID-19.

The virus could be used to assess whether an experimental vaccine elicits neutralizing antibodies, to measure whether a COVID-19 survivor carries enough neutralizing antibodies to donate plasma to COVID-19 patients, or to identify antibodies with the potential to be developed into antiviral drugs.

"One of the problems in evaluating neutralizing antibodies is that a lot of these tests require a BSL-3 facility, and most clinical labs and companies don't have BSL-3 facilities," said researchers.

"With this surrogate virus, you can take serum, plasma or antibodies and do high-throughput analyses at BSL-2 levels, which every lab has, without a risk of getting infected."

Source: https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/lab-made-virus-mimics-covid-19-virus/
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