United against corona
Little is known about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the lung disease COVID-19. At the time of writing this article, there are no drugs or vaccines yet. BPRC uses its expertise and monkeys to change that.
Monkeys, like humans, are permissive to SARS-CoV-2. BPRC has permission from the Competent Authority to conduct experimental infections to test vaccines and new drugs. How does that work? Monkeys go under anesthesia and are then exposed to the virus under controlled conditions. Unlike in humans, we therefore know exactly when, with which specific strain of the virus and with how much virus, the monkey is infected. After that, the animals are anesthetized every day for a smear from the mouth and a blood sample. The samples then go to our own laboratory for research. In this way, we map out how the virus behaves in the body and how the immune system reacts to the virus.
We take strict precautions to prevent the virus from spreading. For example, the rooms where the animals are housed are under under-pressure, so that virus particles cannot escape from the room. Animal caretakers and lab technicians protect themselves with protective clothing. No ordinary mouth masks, but with a kind of moon suits. They breathe in a mask where clean air flows in, which is filtered by a motor with established HEPA filters. Everyone has their own mask and filter unit, which is hung on a belt around the stomach.
Experts from all over the world are currently developing new vaccines and drugs. In order to lose as little time as possible, (international) scientific collaborations have been set up between research groups with different expertise. The role of BPRC is to evaluate early experimental agents.
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) made an interactive world map showing which institutes are engaged in research on COVID-19.
Want to stay informed?
Our blog page brings the latest news and information about our research on COVID-19, and about our other research areas as well.