HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - There's no vaccine to protect from the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, that first reportedly broke out in Wuhan, China.
A global epidemic
The virus has spread to 28 countries and the Johns Hopkins real time virus dashboard showed more than 81-thousand global confirmed cases. The map indicates most cases stem from Mainland China.
But North Alabama scientists have taken steps to address the problem. They are working on tests to help medical professionals identify respiratory infections in patients such as COVID-19.
Diatherix, a clinical laboratory here in Huntsville, is working to help identify the coronavirus strain that has sickened tens of thousands of people around the world. The lab located on the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology campus.
Meet Diatherix Laboratory Director Jeff Wisotzkey
"The new coronavirus that we hear so much about is a viral pathogen and we are working to be able to detect that pathogen in the regular respiratory testing that we do," said Diatherix Chief Scientific Officer and Laboratory Director Jeff Wisotzkey.
Scientists would need to identify those pathogens fast. This could help doctors treat patients sooner. Wisotzkey said it's complicated work.
Detection vs. vaccination
"There are two key elements to what is happening in various laboratories," he said.
One is the ability to quickly detect the severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as the SARS virus. Wisotzkey said the new coronavirus reportedly found in Wuhan, China is related to that virus.
"The other aspect among others is care for this cornoavirus and the other viral types," said Wisotzkey. He added the vaccines take a long time to create, but his lab focuses on the diagnosis side of infectious diseases.
"We're creating a high-throughput test methodology so that if we need to we can handle a significantly high volume of tests for the coronavirus, the new coronavirus, than we could right now with the conventional methodologies," said Wisotzkey.
That means scientists would be able to test far more patient samples in a single day rather than just a few based on the current technology that's available.
What the World Health Organization is saying
The World Health Organization reported Wednesday, "Among the team's findings was that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between the 23rd of January and the 2nd of February, and has been declining steadily since then. The team also estimates that the measures taken in China have averted a significant number of cases. "
WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on January 30.
The Johns Hopkins real-time virus dashboard showed more than 2,500 confirmed deaths around the world, but more than 30,000 people recovered from COVID-19.