Futuris travels to Marseille and Cambridge to look at two European projects pooling and sharing data to help the scientific community beat COVID-19.
While one part of the scientific world is struggling to fight the SARS-Cov2 virus, institutes like the European Virus Archive in Marseille are making sure pathogens like it still exist.
Twelve years since its launch, the EVA has become one of the most important databases in the world. It holds more than 3000 products, including viruses, test substances and other types of material.
“This collection is a virtual collection. The idea was not to put all the viruses in the same place, like a Fort Knox of virology. The viruses remain in each laboratory,” says Jean Louis Romette, the EVA’s project coordinator.
This non-profit EU project makes it possible to rapidly supply scientists with the knowledge and material they need during a virus-related emergency.
“When the coronavirus appeared in China, our coronavirus researchers in the EVA organisation immediately saw that this virus was one of the SARS family, and they quickly developed a diagnostic system to detect the virus in patient samples,” Romette adds.
The Marseille-based Institute brings together nearly forty cutting-edge labs in human, animal and plant virological research. Its online catalog allows users to have access to genetic material and other various products. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a rise in online traffic: in just two months requests for diagnostic kits and viral strains have matched that which was received in the previous four years.
“When you have an emerging virus and there is very little data available about it, it’s very important to be able to compare it with other existing viruses, from the same family. So the bio-banks are useful in that sense, as they allow us to confront what is new with what already exists,” explains Christine Prat, EVA’s Market Strategy Developer.
The virological material is sent by research centres, laboratories, universities and specialised companies. Once it has arrived, it is tested, certified and filed in an online catalog, along with in-depth information thats key for the scientific community.
Bruno Coutard is responsible for collating what the EVA receives.
“We are increasing the amount of information through cell culture techniques. Using cell cultures, we are able to grow the virus, produce it and distinguish it. Distinguishing is what we call sequencing – to get the complete genome sequence of the virus. This enables us to associate this virus with a known virus species,” he says.
“During an epidemic you don’t have much time to work.”
Xavier Lamballerie, the Director of the EVA’s Emerging Virus Unit, says when an epidemic strikes it is important for scientists to be able to quickly rely on updated models and studies.
“During an epidemic you don’t have much time to work. Epidemics are usually short. If people work with different and poorly defined material, were never able to put all the studies together to compare them. The role of a reference collection like EVA is to provide very quickly, to as many partners as possible, the same products, very well identified, so that they can do research with them.”
The French institute has also been able to provide assistance to developing countries by sending reliable and simple to use testing kit.
“The EVA database allows us to prepare and react, to develop diagnostic tools, that are freeze-dried, so they are stable, at room temperature. They can be sent without being refrigerated. They are usable, extremely stable over time and laboratories can use them under conditions that are similar to those that are in the field,” says Virus Collection Supervisor, Remi Charrel.
Europe swelters under a heatwave complicated by Covid-19 restrictions
Issued on: 09/08/2020 – 13:10
Sun-seekers flocked to beaches over the weekend as parts of Western ..
Sun-seekers flocked to beaches over the weekend as parts of Western Europe sweltered in a heatwave, but authorities urged people to avoid crowded areas and keep wearing masks despite the heat over concern for the rising numbers of coronavirus cases across the continent.
A day after Britain recorded its hottest August day in 17 years at 36.4° Celsius (97.5° Fahrenheit) much of its southern coastline was packed with visitors, many of whom had been forced to abandon more exciting foreign holidays because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Authorities in Bournemouth, home to a seven-mile golden stretch of beach, warned that most of the beach was so busy that "safe social distancing is not possible" and urged people to stay away.
There was a similar story across other parts of Europe, where many residents endured weeks of lockdown earlier this year.
Crowds of Germans also headed for the coast on Saturday, but local authorities warned residents that some beaches and lakes would be closed if there are too many people.
Police in the capital Berlin told residents to avoid popular lake Mueggelsee while the beach at Prenzlau lake in Brandenburg state was turning people away.
"First time I've experienced that in 30 years," said the manager of the Prenzlau site, Ronny Klein.
France has also been sweltering through a heatwave since Thursday, with temperatures pushing towards 40°C (104°F) in several areas.
In the southwest, Brive-la-Gaillarde broke its own record with temperatures of 40.8°C on Friday as did Cognac with 39.8°C while Nantes posted a new all-time record of 39.6°C.
No relief is expected until Wednesday, with the soaring temperatures compounding the pressure as the country's coronavirus outbreak worsens, the number of daily infections hitting 2,288 on Friday.
Authorities reminded sweltering citizens that masks must continue to be worn where they have been mandated, despite the heat, with a Read More – Source
Lukashenko faces challenge in Belarus presidential vote, opposition figures detained
Issued on: 09/08/2020 – 09:55
Belarus began voting in an election on Sunday pitting President Alex..
Belarus began voting in an election on Sunday pitting President Alexander Lukashenko against a former teacher who emerged from obscurity to lead the biggest challenge in years against the man once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington.
The 65-year-old Lukashenko is almost certain to win a sixth consecutive term but could face a new wave of protests amid anger over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and his human rights record.
An ongoing crackdown on the opposition could hurt Lukashenko's attempts to mend fences with the West amid fraying ties with traditional ally Russia, which has tried to press Belarus into closer economic and political union.
A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has ruled since 1994.
International election observers 'haven't even been invited' for Belarus vote
He faces a surprise rival in Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who entered the race after her husband, an anti-government blogger who intended to run, was jailed.
Her rallies have drawn some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Human rights groups say more than 1,300 people have been detained in a widening crackdown.
Foreign observers have not judged an election to be free and fair in Belarus for a quarter of a century. Despite an election commission ban on the opposition holding an alternative vote count, Tikhanouskaya urged her supporters to monitor polling stations.
"We are in the majority and we don't need blood on the city streets," she said on Saturday. "Let's defend our right to choose together."
Belarus opposition candidate’s campaign manager detained before presidential vote
Issued on: 08/08/2020 – 18:09
The campaign manager of Belarus's leading opposition candidate ..
Issued on: 08/08/2020 – 18:09
The campaign manager of Belarus's leading opposition candidate was detained on Saturday on the eve of a tense presidential vote, her office said.
A spokeswoman for presidential hopeful Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told AFP that Maria Moroz had been detained and was expected to be held until Monday.
It was not immediately clear on what grounds she had been detained, said spokeswoman Anna Krasulina.
"She probably won't be released before Monday," Krasulina said.
Moroz was also detained by the interior ministry on Thursday after visiting the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk. She was later released.
The 65-year-old leader has headed the ex-Soviet country bordering Russia since 1994 and Sunday's polls are expected to hand him his sixth term.
Lukashenko has presided over an aggressive crackdown on the opposition and Tikhanovskaya has charged that he will rig the vote.
Europe's longest-serving leader
Early voting began in the country of 9.5 million people on Tuesday, with official turnout over the past four days already at more than 32 percent.
Tikhanovskaya has drawn huge crowds to campaign rallies throughout the country after she was allowed to participate in place of her husband who was jailed and barred from running.
Lukashenko, who is Europe's longest-serving leader, jailed twRead More – Source