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Brazil: Project gathers universities in the Northeast to study the virus that causes Covid-19

A study led by UFRN will use data from patients in the region to analyze the coronavirus


Brazil: Project gathers universities in the Northeast to study the virus that causes Covid-19
Lucymara Fassarela is responsible for the proposal, which will have 30 researchers, including professors, doctoral students and postdoctoral students. - Photo: Personal archive

Oct 13, Knowing the virus that causes Covid-19 and proposing measures that are efficient for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of the disease, with information collected in the Northeastern states are some of the objectives of the project of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) approved in the Program to Combat Epidemics of the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes).


The work will be developed by 30 researchers, including professors from UFRN, the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), the State of Ceará (UECE) and the Federal de Alagoas (Ufal), in addition to 15 doctoral students and four post-doctoral students. Lucymara Fassarella, the general coordinator of the Northeast Biotechnology Network (Renorbio), is responsible for the proposal and explained that Capes' support will enable the work of different laboratories linked to the Renorbio network and the development of 15 doctoral theses during the research.


Project


Divided into four axes, the study gathers genomic, clinical and molecular data, with a multidisciplinary approach. This will make a correlation between the characteristics of the virus, the responses induced in the host and the influence of microorganisms, with parameters of disease evolution.


The first axis will sequence the virus genome, based on a sample of patients diagnosed with Covid-19 in the Northeast states. "Although there are already reports of the sequencing of this genome, questions regarding mutation rates, viral evolution and strains present in each region are still scarce," said Fassarella. The scientist explained that "the identification of variants in a larger number of samples will allow to trace routes of dissemination and establish mutation rates and evolutionary models for the virus".


The second axis seeks to recognize metabolic routes and genes that can be used as markers for prognosis and potential therapeutic targets, using bioinformatics tools. The third-party will use samples from positive and negative patients to estimate, for example, the environmental viral load and ecological parameters. Finally, the fourth strand will develop methods of diagnosis and treatment, using different approaches, such as tests and new drugs.

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