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Scientists at Rocky Mountain Laboratories working on coronavirus

Researchers conducting experiments to find a cure
Posted at 4:19 PM, Feb 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-14 22:02:39-05

MISSOULA — The coronavirus has now spread to more than 25 countries outside of China, and several states in America.

Among those who are working diligently to address this epidemic are scientists at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton in the Bitterroot Valley.

RML reports that some projects are already underway and others will begin shortly as this is a priority topic for the many researchers who study viruses.

Inside the highly secured campus, researchers are conducting experiments to find a cure for coronavirus.

Research projects include learning how the virus binds to cells so they can develop therapies to prevent the binding and stop infection, learning how stable the virus is in the environment, establishing an animal model to study the virus, and testing the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and treatments.

This week, experts at Rocky Mountain Laboratories produced images of the coronavirus on their scanning and transmission electron microscopes.

A press release from the agency on Thursday explained: "RML produced images of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, previously known as 2019-nCoV) on its scanning and transmission electron microscopes on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19 disease, which has grown to be a global public health emergency since cases were first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. RML investigator Emmie de Wit, Ph.D., provided the virus samples as part of her studies, microscopist Elizabeth Fischer produced the images, and the RML visual medical arts office digitally colorized the images."

This is considered to be a major step in continuing research on the coronavirus.

RML scientists have also studied a related virus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus which emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012. This will help in their research on the Coronavirus we're seeing now.

Rocky Mountain Laboratories is also known for researching HIV, influenza, Ebola, and other emerging infectious diseases.

The RML website contains a section devoted to Coronaviruses, and provides this overview:

  • There are hundreds of coronaviruses, most of which circulate among animals including pigs, camels, bats and cats. Sometimes those viruses jump to humans—called a spillover event—and can cause disease. Seven coronaviruses are known to cause human disease, four of which are mild: viruses 229E, OC43, NL63 and HKU1. Three of the coronaviruses can have more serious outcomes in people, and those are SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which emerged in late 2002 and disappeared by 2004; MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), which emerged in 2012 and remains in circulation in camels; and the 2019-nCoV, which emerged in December 2019 from China and a global effort is under way to contain its spread.

In related news, the Gallatin City-County Health Department in Bozeman confirmed Friday that test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicated that a woman under evaluation in Gallatin County does not have an illness related to 2019 novel coronavirus.

The patient has been in isolation at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital since Monday due to the illness and recent travel history in mainland China. The health department and hospital staff worked closely with partners at the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to manage the patient and minimize risk of disease spread in the community.

As of Friday, February 14, the CDC says that there have been a total of 15 people in the U.S. who have tested positive for the virus, and no deaths associated with them; 347 people have tested negative; and there are still 81 pending tests. Click here to read more at the CDC website.