Feb 13, 2020
Coronavirus is an enveloped non-segmented positive-sense RNA virus belonging to the family Coronaviridae and the order Nidovirales. It is a large family of viruses that causes respiratory illness in people. The new zoonotic human coronavirus which caused series of pneumonia cases has emerged in December 2019 at Wuhan, Hubei province in China.
The latest coronavirus to emerge has its similarity to both severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that have caused thousands of cases worldwide in the last two decades. The new coronavirus has been identified through deep sequencing analysis from lower respiratory tract samples, and later named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) has named the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The possible cause of the outbreak of the COVID-19 is linked to large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal to person transmission. However, an escalating number of known cases reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, suggesting a person to person transmission. Chinese officials report that sustained person to person transmission in the community is happening in China. The incubation period of the newly emerged coronavirus is between 2 to 14 days and remains infectious during this time. Common signs of infections include fever, cough, shortness of breath, malaise, and respiratory distress.
Impact of COVID-19
Figure 1. Map showing the presence of COVID-19 worldwide. Information based on one-month report (31 Dec 2019 -12 Feb 2020). Image Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The COVID-19 recent outbreak poses threats to international public health. A total of 45,171 laboratory-confirmed cases and 1114 deaths reported caused by COVID-19 has been declared from December 31, 2019 to February 12, 2020. Cases have been reported in China* (45 171), Singapore (47), Japan (28) , South Korea (28), Malaysia (18), Australia (15), Vietnam (15), Philippines (3), Cambodia (1), Thailand (33), India (3), Nepal (1), Sri Lanka (1), USA (13), Canada (7), Germany (16), France (11), United Kingdom (8), Italy (3), Russia (2), Belgium (1), Finland (1), Sweden (1), UAE (8), and International conveyance (Japan) (175).
*Confirmed cases in China include Hong Kong (49), Macau (10) and Taiwan (18).
With the increasing number of cases worldwide, several countries are implementing strict thermal screening of passengers to prevent any entry of the COVID-19. This aims to control the spreading of the disease in those countries. Statements from China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand indicate that COVID-19 appears to be clinically milder than SARS or MERS overall in terms of its pathogenicity. However, pathogenic potential and transmission dynamics of COVID-19 are still questionable, which increases the risk of cases remaining undetected.
On-going Research and Laboratory Facilities for COVID-19/ SARS-CoV-2
As there is still no available anti-viral treatment for COVID-19, further research needs to be conducted to determine the pathogenicity and transmissibility of this disease via molecular detection and sero-surveillance. Moreover, the spread of COVID-19 in a healthcare setting requires proper healthcare facilities in containing the disease.
Facilities for undergoing research for COVID-19 should strictly implement the appropriate biosafety practices inside the laboratory. Following the biosafety guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), laboratory workers should wear complete personal protective equipment (PPE) including disposable gloves, laboratory coat/gown, and eye protection when working with infectious materials. Generally, in diagnostic and healthcare settings (e.g. hospital-based, clinical and public health), laboratories must be at least Biosafety Level 2 or above. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both Biosafety Level 2 and 3 laboratories are the required laboratory set-up when handling the SARS-CoV-2.
Figure 2. A Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) Facility. Image source: WHO Laboratory Biosafety Manual, 3rd edition
The guiding principles for Biosafety level 2 laboratories are detailed and comprehensively discussed as they are fundamental to laboratories of all biosafety levels. This biosafety level facility is to be used only during a pathologic examination, molecular analysis of extracted nucleic acid preparations, electron microscopic studies, routine examination of samples, routine staining and microscopic analysis, final packaging of specimens for transport to diagnostic laboratories for additional testing, and conducting experiments using inactivated specimens. A Class II Biological Safety Cabinet is needed when manipulating a potentially infected specimen under risk group level 1 and 2 microorganisms.
On the other hand, guidelines for containment laboratories (Biosafety Level 3) include alterations of and additions to the basic laboratory guidelines which are designed for applications when working with risk group level 3 microorganisms. Viral isolation and initial characterization of viral agents found in cultures of SARS-CoV-2 infected specimens should only be contained on a BSL-3 facility. A Class III Biological Safety Cabinet is needed when handling SARS-CoV-2 infected specimens, in accordance with local national rules.
Figure 3. A Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Facility. Image source: WHO Laboratory Biosafety Manual, 3rd edition
Aside from Biological Safety Cabinets, other laboratory equipment on BSL 2 and 3 facilities should also be provided not just to protect the personnel and samples but also to offer a solution on the ongoing quest for COVID-19 anti-viral treatment.
What can Esco provide?
Biosafety Cabinets are mainly used for containing infectious droplets or aerosols from microbiological procedures. Esco has designed a biosafety cabinet guaranteed to protect the operator and environment from pathogenic biological agents while providing a sterile environment for the sample. In addition, most Esco employees, especially those in China, are prepared to help and provide services to customers who are at the forefront of the war against COVID-19. Free assessment is offered even for other brands of Biosafety Cabinets to ensure the cabinet’s performance and efficiency.
To provide additional support in the research and to help meet the emergency requirements, Esco donated a Labculture® Biosafety Cabinet to the CDC system of Hubei and 2 more units of Biosafety cabinet to The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University.
Numerous Centers for Disease Control and Hospitals chose Esco to be part of their research process. Esco’s biosafety cabinet has been featured in various news and media outlets that tackles the COVID-19 outbreak. This shows that through any epidemic, Esco equipment are safe and reliable.
Count on Esco, Your Partner in Laboratory Safety!
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World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 23. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/docs/defaultsource/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200212-sitrep-23-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=41e9fb78_2
World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
World Health Organization. (2004). Laboratory Biosafety Manual. 3rd Edition. Geneva, World Health Organization. pp 13 & 15
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