UW-Madison researchers to begin efforts to study new coronavirus

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Within the next few weeks, UW researchers will begin studies to understand the new coronavirus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 1,000 people.

David O’Connor, professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and Thomas Friedrich, professor in the UW School of Veterinary Medicine started planning efforts last month to study the virus that first emerged in China.

“We are working together to develop a plan to build out nonhuman primate models to test medical countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics,” says O’Connor. “We want to make sure we are recapitulating the kind of clinical signs (of virus infection) that happen in people.”

The research will focus on understanding how the virus infects humans and create opportunities to test new vaccines and antivirals. They will also look at who might be at risk for developing severe symptoms related to the novel coronavirus.

At the Influenza Research Institute (IRI) in Madison, Professor of Pathobiological Sciences Yoshihiro Kawaoka is also preparing to study the virus. He will be looking at how the virus transmits among animals.

UW-Madison has worked with state health officials and the State Lab of Hygiene to prepare for the research.

“We are requiring researchers to monitor their health and to take their temperatures twice per day,” says Rebecca Moritz, Responsible Official and the Institutional Contact for Dual Use Research at UW–Madison. “If they are not feeling well, our exposure control plans in place involve infectious disease and public health authorities. We would quarantine and test them for the virus.”

So far, there has been one confirmed case of coronavirus in Wisconsin. Fifteen cases were under investigation with 13 results as negative, and one test result is pending. The patient with the novel coronavirus is recovery and health officials say they are doing well.