BEIJING, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists raced against the clock to identify the pathogen and timely shared with the world the genome sequence of the coronavirus, winning time for the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, said a top biosafety specialist.
On Jan. 2, 2020, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received samples of infected cases from Hubei Province, which was hit hard by COVID-19 since the beginning of last year.
Wu Guizhen, chief biosafety scientist with the China CDC, told Xinhua that after receiving the samples, she and her peers immediately began work on deciphering the genetic code of the virus.
"It is like being unable to find the enemy on the battlefield if we don't know about the virus," Wu said.
To get the full picture of the virus as quickly and accurately as possible, the China CDC brought about coordination among its emergency technology center, biological safety lab, influenza center and instrument room to jointly conduct the whole genome sequencing using different technologies.
The National Health Commission (NHC) organized a number of institutions with advanced biosafety facilities, including the China CDC, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to carry out parallel laboratory testing of the samples for pathogen identification.
All the sequencing results discovered the same genome sequence of a novel coronavirus that was not found in healthy people and other types of pneumonia patients, a key step closer to identifying the pathogen.
Meanwhile, Chinese scientists used a variety of methods to isolate the virus, which may provide the gold standard for pathogen identification and critical evidence for epidemic analysis and control.
On Jan. 7, 2020, the China CDC succeeded in isolating the first novel coronavirus strain, which has a typical coronal shape with a crown-like outer layer. The strain was isolated with the help of the electron microscope.
On Jan. 8, 2020, after analyzing all the evidence, an evaluation team of experts from the NHC initially identified the novel coronavirus as the cause of the epidemic.
On Jan. 9, 2020, the NHC expert team made the pathogen public, and China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about the epidemic, sharing with the WHO its initial progress in pathogen identification.
The WHO released on its website a statement, saying that preliminary identification of a novel coronavirus in a short time is a notable achievement.
On Jan. 12, 2020, the China CDC, the CAMS and the WIV, as designated agencies of the NHC, submitted to the WHO the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus, which was published by the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) and shared globally.
China's candid sharing of the virus information has helped other countries develop testing kits and vaccines, and provided key support to the global fight against COVID-19.
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