July 1, 2020

Different approaches to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic

Several members of the NCCR Microbiomes are contributing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. They have partly shifted the focus of their research in order to deliver discoveries that can help to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, mitigate its effects on society, and even prepare the country for possible future similar epidemics. Funds made readily available by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), ETH Zurich (ETHZ) or the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) have enabled this rapid reorientation of research projects.

At ETH Zurich, Emma Slack’s group has harnessed their knowledge of immunology towards developing a vaccine that is easy to produce and can work against other coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. The Institute of Microbiology at CHUV, directed by Gilbert Greub, was reorganised in March in order to increase their COVID-19 testing capacity, which was quadruplicated in less than a month. The institute has also developed serology tests to detect the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. As part of the NCCR Microbiomes research, Gilbert Greub and Benoît Guery plan to study how the pharynx microbiome affects SARS-CoV-2 infection and its outcome in hospital patients.

Finally, two members of the NCCR Microbiomes participate in the Swiss National COVID-19 Scientific Task Force, a national scientific advisory board set up specifically for the COVID-19 pandemic. Martin Ackermann is a member of the advisory panel, and Roman Stocker chairs the Exchange Platform «Academic Resources for COVID», through which research groups from all Swiss universities can make equipment, resources, consumables and specialised staff available for the medical sector.