Jaqueline Goes de Jesus coordinated a team of Brazilian scientists who sequenced the genome of the coronavirus in 48 hours; process usually takes 2 weeks
By Marques Travae
With the breakout of the so-called coronavirus already having already passed the point of concern on a global level, it is vitally important that we learn as much as we can about this latest health threat. With the first reported case of the virus in Latin America being reported in Brazil, a team of researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Instituto Adolfo Lutz were immediately on the case.
Less than two days after the case was reported on February 26th, the team from USP and Oxford had already released the complete sequencing of the virus genome affecting the infected patient, a 61-year-old man living in the city of São Paulo. With a sample from this patient that had recently traveled Lombardy, Italy, the researchers were able to also decipher that the second case diagnosed in Brazil was actually different from the first. Returning from Europe, the patient presented symptoms such as such as fever, dry cough, sore throat, and a cold.
The researchers also confirmed that their work is the first full analysis of virus genome that is connected with the infection in that northern Italian city, which is being pinpointed as a key area for the transmission of the coronavirus in Europe. The work of these scientists is noteworthy because such sequencing generally takes up to two weeks.
As researchers scamble to learn as much they can about the latest health risk, they discovered that the strain of virus genome reported in Brazil differs from the version in Wuhan, China, that the Brazilian virus genome differs from the reference genome obtained in the city of Wuhan, China, where the SARS-CoV-2, its medical name, was first reported. According to the latest information, the one affecting the Brazilian patient matches more clsely to the genome found in a German patient.
“The continuous monitoring of new suspected cases will be critical to monitor new virus imports into Brazil and to identify initial local transmission groups in the country,” said the authors, led by Ester Sabino and Jaqueline Goes de Jesus. Ana Teresa Vasconcelos, who conducts research at National Laboratory of Scientific Computing in Rio de Janeiro, didn’t participate in this particular study, but understood the importance: “The genome sequence generated by Brazilian researchers less than 48 hours after diagnosis demonstrates that we have the capacity to act in real time to face several types of epidemics,” she said.
“The virus that is circulating in Italy had not yet been sequenced, that is, the data were generated in Brazil earlier than in Italy,” she said. She further added that: “The identification of the viral genome is important to the international and Brazilian scientific community because it allows us to follow the changes that the virus can undergo over time and in different countries; besides helping to understand how the virus is spreading around the world, this type of information is useful for developing vaccines and diagnostic tests.”
The information was published at the end of February on Virological.org, a platform for specialists who deal work with virology and epidemiology.
Seeing the work of Jaqueline Goes de Jesus among the researchers may come as a surprise for some people. Another Carnaval season in Brazil just ended, and at this time of year, people are accustomed to seeing black women with shaking hips and lightning fast feet during parades. But de Jesus is part of a small, but growing number black Brazilian woman who are making names for themselves in the world of sciences.
The coordinator of the genome study, de Jesus graduated in Biomedicine from the Bahian School of Medicine and Public Health, possesses a Master’s degree in Biotechnology in Health and Investigative Medicine (PgBSMI) from the Gonçalo Moniz Research Institute – Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (IGM-FIOCRUZ) and also earned a PhD in Human and Experimental Pathology from the Federal University of Bahia and is also a post-doctorate student at the Faculty of Medicine of USP.
Congrats and well-deserved recognition are in order for Jaqueline. Another Brazilian “hidden figure” who proves that the capacity of black women goes far beyond than the occupations of maids, cleaning women and Carnaval dancers.
With information from El País Brasil