University of Cape Town plays key role in tracking covid-19 cases
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is playing a key role in tracking infected persons of the coronavirus in South Africa. Various efforts have also been put into generating reliable data on infection rates and modelling. A dashboard on daily infections has been created while researchers from the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics is working on the epidemiological modelling of COVID-19 in Cape Town to assist in efforts aimed at combating the virus in the city. Again, owing to the critical role of accurate public information on the pandemic, the Global Surgery Division has developed an information dissemination platform targeted at communities without smartphones or internet access on their phones using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) communication protocols.
Furthermore, various teams have been engaged in the production of medical devices and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers to support healthcare. These include face visors, 3-D printed biodegradable respirator masks, intubation shields for tracheal intubation, the development of 3-D printed autoclavable swabs to be used for testing, and the design of low cost non-invasive mechanical ventilators.
Morevover, there have been several efforts towards vaccine development and clinical trials. For instance, scientists at the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) of UCT are using the DNA and poxvirus, and cell culture and plant production approaches to develop candidate vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 S protein and its related genes, in addition to efforts by other teams to produce antibodies for COVID-19 by mining monoclonal antibody (mAb) genes from survivals and the establishment of immunoassays and enzyme immunoassays for antibody detection for sero-surveillance. There are also has plans to map the genetic diversity of South African SARS-CoV-2 strains to monitor its introduction into, and subsequent geographical spread in South Africa, and to investigate host adaptation and its potential effects on antibody recognition and vaccine development. Concerning clinical trials, a team of researchers have joined the World Health Organisation (WHO)-led Solidarity clinical trial, which will explore treatments for COVID-19 patients in hospitals.
Additionally, many studies are ongoing including the exploration of rapid diagnostic test approaches, chloroquine treatment for COVID-19 in HIV infected patients, COVID-19 epidemiology, whole-genome sequencing, immune response in COVID-19 patients and the identification of prognosis marker of COVID-19.