Sandile Cele, On Covid

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    • KZN scientist successfully grows 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant in lab
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        • A man from KwaZulu-Natal sacrificed his December holidays and has done what no one else has been able to up to now. Sandile Cele has successfully grown the 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa. It’s hoped this will help in the fight against the pandemic. Mawande Kheswa filed this report.
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          Channel:- eNCA
          Date Posted:- 2021-February-19th
          Date Added:- 2021-February-23rd
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Write Up

iOL

KZN scientist successfully grows 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant in lab

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SILINDILE NYATHIKAZI

Durban – A DURBAN medical student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Nelson Mandela School of Medicine and aspiring virologist has come up with a creative way of growing the South African Covid-19 variant.

Where the virus is usually grown in cells that were isolated from monkeys, this time Sandile Cele found that the new variant (called 501Y.V2) did not grow in these cells and had to try a different way.

“I figured out that I had to first use a human cell line to grow it, and then use these infected cells to infect the monkey cell line,” said Cele.

According to Hannah Keal, communications manager at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), Cele “was the key person for this research” and was one of the authors of the new paper which has found that 501Y.V2 can escape antibodies generated from previous infection. This means that antibodies from people who were infected with previous variants may not work well against 501Y.V2.

The Ndwedwe-born 32-year-old is part of a group of leading South African virologists, immunologists, vaccinologists, infectious disease specialists and microbiologists testing whether current vaccines and treatments will still be effective and other specific questions surrounding 501Y.V2.

Led by Dr Alex Sigal from AHRI, Professor Tulio de Oliveira and Dr Richard Lessells from the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform at UKZN, Cele’s “key” contribution has been in growing the 501Y.V2 in the highly specialised Level 3 Biosafety lab.

“This allowed us to test whether antibodies recognise it. We need to understand this to find out if there are implications for the vaccines that were designed for the earlier variants. It feels good that I have contributed to more scientific knowledge about SARS-CoV-2. The only way to deal with a disease is to understand its causative agent,” said Cele.

Using samples from newly infected patients from all over South Africa, Cele, who is a Research Lab Technologist at AHRI said the work he and the team were doing “is critical to understanding where this pandemic goes next”.

 

Cele’s research leader Signal, has likened him to 1975 Nobel laureate and virologist David Baltimore who won the Nobel Prize along with Howard Temin for discovering reverse transcriptase (an enzyme used to generate complementary DNA).

“I think David can be proud of Sandile; he is his scientific grandfather. Can you believe Africa is leading cutting edge research on Covid? Yes, I can. If you see the hard work and passion of our scientists. Sandile is a rising star who spent all his ’holidays’ in a P3+ lab,” said Sigal.

eNCA

KZN scientist successfully grows 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant in lab

Link

DURBAN – Sandile Cele from KwaZulu-Natal sacrificed his December holidays and has done what no one else has been able to up to now.

He has successfully grown the 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa and it’s hoped this will help in the fight against the pandemic.

“As we were the first people able to successfully grow this virus, some institutes around the world have requested that we ship the virus to them so that they could do their own research,” Cele said.

“Once we have the virus, we can start getting solutions because if you don’t know your enemy, you don’t know how to fight them.

“The lab is a starting point so without actually growing the virus up you cannot go towards a solution and that’s why what Sandile did is so critical.”

The Ndwedwe-born UKZN graduate says he will keep donning his laboratory uniform to help better the country.

Portrait

Sandile Cele

Sandile Cele at the laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban.

Picture: Qiniso Dladla.

 

research Lead

Pictured from left Dr. Alex Sigal, Dr. Richard Lessells and Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, who led the research.

They are sitting outside the AHRI at UKZN’s Medical campus.

 

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