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SARS-CoV2 labs in operation at Lund University

Photo: Jenny Power
Photo: Jenny Power

Currently, all around the world, urgent research initiatives are underway in the fight against Covid-19 to find both better treatments as well as a vaccine that creates immunity. At Faculty of Medicine, Lund University, researchers have quickly launched two dedicated SARS-Cov2 labs, which are now conducting research on samples from coronavirus patients.

The Division of Infection Medicine at the Department of Clinical Sciences is behind the initiative that now involves microbiologists, sepsis researchers and clinical and experimental infection researchers. The division benefits from experience of working with risk-classified microorganisms and there are already a couple of labs that have biosafety level classifications. 

“In normal circumstances, the process would have taken significantly longer, however, we had to act quickly to adapt to a new research issue. It was amazing and really impressive to see how quickly the organisation lent a hand and how people step up and contribute when needed”, says Mattias Collin, associate professor and head of the Division of Infection Medicine and coordinator of the SARS-Cov2 labs.

He explains how quickly everyone acted on everything from adaptation of ventilation (which requires negative pressure), risk assessments by the occupational health service, contact with work environment coordinators and health and safety representatives among others – all to minimise the risk for all staff. Additional research groups at the Biomedical Centre (BMC) have also offered their assistance in the work.

The researchers who are involved are used to bringing issues directly from the clinic to the research lab.

“We usually work on finding important clinical issues that we can study experimentally to then bring solutions back to the clinic”, explains Mattias Collin.

Everything started when the research clinics began receiving patients affected by Covid-19 at Skåne University Hospital. Initially, it concerned purely clinical issues as well as a need to investigate ongoing treatment to see how patients responded to it. Quite quickly, researchers saw the possibility to prepare to conduct research on the Covid-19 infection.

“Among other things, researchers are analysing sputum tests, i.e. expectorations from patients to research cells and see which immunological processes are occurring. Some of the researchers are examining blood tests to see how patient blood cells are behaving, which white blood cells are present as well as their function.”

Mattias Collin says that the analyses of sputum tests from seriously ill patients have provided the clinics with answers that have enabled them to introduce a new kind of treatment for certain patients. 

“For the time being, it is too early to release more information about outcomes and results. More analyses and compilations of data are required. At the same time, in this situation it is really important to quickly be able to share knowledge with other researchers if the research we have provides indications, for example, on treatment strategies that may help the patients”, says Mattias Collin.