Health Board lab testing new coronavirus identification capability

Health Board.
Health Board. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Health Board began testing primers of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that had arrived in Estonia on Friday. The Estonian authority will check the accuracy of its first positive and negative controls at a World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratory.

A primer is a short sequence of nucleic acid that correlates to a genetic sequence unique to the virus being tested and allows for it to be replicated and thereafter identified in a test sample.

According to Martin Kadai, director of the Emergency Medicine Department at the Health Board, the verification of test results at a WHO reference lab are necessary for verifying the quality of identification of the new virus.

"In reality this means that during a test phase, we will be seeking a so-called second opinion," Kadai said, adding that the establishment of this new capability is part of Estonia's epidemiological readiness.

"The new capability will give us the opportunity to identify the coronavirus spreading in China in the span of approximately eight hours," he added.

Prior to the arrival of the 2019-nCoV primers, the Health Board also had the option of sending samples of suspected coronavirus to Sweden or some other partner lab for testing.

Following its initial human outbreak in Wuhan, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus is currently spreading primarily in China. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s, and both humans and animals are susceptible to them. Well-known coronaviruses such as the betacoronaviruses HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 as well as the alphacoronavirus HCoV-229E cause both symptoms common to viral upper respiratory infections as well as serious pulmonary problems, and are an especial threat to the elderly and young children.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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