Dr Łukasz Rąbalski, researcher from the University of Gdańsk is the first person in Poland to have obtained full genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus extracted from the Polish patient. He published it in GISAID global database. The discovery will enable researchers across the world to take Poland into account in their epidemiological inquiries on COVID-19. It is an important contribution to recognizing the molecular evolution of the virus that may in the future contribute to finding a vaccine and drugs to deal with it.
Dr Łukasz Rąbalski, associate professor at the Laboratory of Recombinant Vaccines of Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of University of Gdańsk and Medical University of Gdańsk, was the first person in Poland to have obtained full genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus extracted from the Polish patient, from Pomorskie Region. The previous Polish genome in GISAID database came from the analysis of viruses multiplied in laboratory with the use of cell lines.
The genetic sequence contains important information about how the virus “deceives” the human body and successfully weakens its immune system. Thanks to isolation of such sequence, the decoding of the virus, we are able to better understand its makeup and its evolutionary and geographical origins, consequently leading to the invention of vaccine and cure.
Next generation Oxford Nanopore Technologies sequencers were used to decode the virus from the Polish patient from Pomorskie Region, resulting in the lack of additional procedures that could potentially distort the findings. The work also involved using bioinformatic protocols used by ARTIC scientists to compile genetic data during the Ebola epidemic in Africa.
“Genetic material must meet many quantitative and qualitative norms so it can be decoded. In the case of viruses with a RNA thread, we have to use methods of multiplying the genetic material. This used to mean growing the virus in a laboratory. Now, thanks to biomolecular advances, we can take a shortcut and bypass that requirement,” explained Dr. Rąbalski.
The genetic material was isolated at Pracownia Biologii Molekularnej Diagnostyki sp. z o.o (Laboratory of Molecular Diagnostics Limited) at the VII Naval Hospital in Gdańsk. It is a laboratory dedicated to testing for coronavirus, established thanks to the University of Gdańsk providing specialist devices, two Thermal cyclers Light Cycler 480 II and two BSL-2 laminar chambers with accessories. Diagnostic work at the laboratory is conducted by the diagnostic staff, supported during the crisis by the doctoral students of Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of University of Gdańsk and Medical University of Gdańsk.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genetic sequence, isolated directly from the Polish patient, was published in the global GISAID database on 20 April 2020. Up until this point, the largest database containing over 5000 sequences from across the globe, lacked Polish isolate that would come directly from the patient. Thanks to the work of scientist from the University of Gdańsk this situation has changed.
Currently, further sequencing of viruses from the isolated Polish patients also take place at Hematology Laboratory of the University Teaching Hospital in Gdańsk. Additional sequences have been planned to be sent in the next couple of days.
The obtained data will enable researchers across the world to take Poland into account in their epidemiological inquiries on COVID-19, making important contribution to recognizing the molecular evolution of the virus.