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31 Dec 2020

Doherty Institute’s Top 10 most read news stories in 2020

As the year that was like no other draws to a close, the Doherty Institute takes a look back on the ‘most read’ news stories from our website. The Institute’s significant contribution to the COVID-19 response has seen our news stories experience views like never before.

So, drum roll please for the Top 10 most read stories from the Doherty Institute.

1. Release of COVID 19 modelling papers
Doherty Institute researchers released their work on COVID-19 modelling to the general public. Led by Professor Jodie McVernon, Director of Doherty Epidemiology, and University of Melbourne Professor James McCawn, these models were utilised by the Commonwealth Government in the public health response to COVID-19.

2. Doherty Institute scientists first to grow and share 2019 novel coronavirus
Scientists from The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) in Melbourne successfully grew the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from a patient sample, which provided expert international laboratories with crucial information to help combat the virus.

It was the first time the virus has been grown in cell culture outside of China. The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Dr Julian Druce, Virus Identification Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, said it was a significant breakthrough as it allowed accurate investigation and diagnosis of the virus globally.

 

3. Possible coronavirus drug identified by Melbourne scientists
A collaborative study led by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) with the Doherty Institute showed that an anti-parasitic drug already available around the world kills SARS-CoV-2 virus within 48 hours.

The Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Dr Kylie Wagstaff, who led the study, said the scientists showed that the drug, Ivermectin, stopped the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture within 48 hours.

4. COVID-19: The immune system can fight back
Researchers mapped the immune responses from one of Australia’s first novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, showing the body’s ability to fight the virus and recover from the infection.

They were able to test blood samples at four different time points in an otherwise healthy woman in her 40s, who presented with COVID-19 and had mild-to-moderate symptoms requiring hospital admission.

5. Setting it Straight: Microbes, viruses and face masks in the COVID-19 Petri dish
Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty explored all things infection and immunity in a weekly column, Setting it Straight, exclusive to the Doherty Institute website.

You’ve heard it on TV: we’re all in this Petri dish together! Australia: just one big COVID-19 Petri dish! What, or who, is a Petri? It’s capitalised, so does it refer to, say, Petra, the archaeological site in Southern Jordan? Were the first Petri dishes made of baked clay?...

6. Setting it Straight: Slime, ryhme and snot in the time of COVID-19
Another one of Professor Doherty’s awaited weekly columns.

Kids’ nursery rhymes can reflect all sorts of things, from the depths of history, to the obsession of small children with various body excretions and secretions. In the ‘acceptable in polite society category’, an easy one to relate to infection and immunity is:

Ring a ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A’ tishoo, A’tishoo,
We all fall down.

7. 101 on the novel coronavirus
The Doherty Institute’s intrepid science communicator, and PhD student Catriona Nguyen-Robertson wrote all there was to know about coronavirus, just two months into the pandemic in late February.

8. Setting it Straight: Talking about COVID-19?
“This is my first communication in what’s intended as a weekly commentary/explainer, Setting it Straight on all things infection and immunity. And as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, I have no doubt I’ll be writing about COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, starting today.

“As an Institute devoted entirely to infection and immunity, various research and diagnostic teams across our wonderful, still new, high security, high-tech building are working flat out at the coalface, as they drive forward to develop technical solutions and minimise the human toll of COVID-19. Central to that are the efforts of clinical infectious disease colleagues (real doctors!), many of whom have their offices and laboratories in our building at the top end of Elizabeth Street, while they care for patients at The Royal Melbourne Hospital across the street and at the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg…”

9. Use of saliva as a diagnostic specimen for COVID-19
The Doherty Institute has been working to validate the use of saliva as a diagnostic specimen for COVID-19.

Professor Deborah Williamson, Director of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Department of Clinical Microbiology and Deputy Director of the University of Melbourne’s Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute, and her team previously demonstrated the feasibility, acceptability and scalability of collecting saliva in a busy-screening clinic, with samples collected at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the value of saliva as a non-invasive specimen for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.

10. The positives and negatives of mass testing for coronavirus
Professor Benjamin Cowie and Jennifer MacLachlan wrote this fantastic explainer on mass testing for COVID-19 for The Conversation.

Many jurisdictions around the world are now testing people without symptoms as part of efforts to manage COVID-19. In Victoria, asymptomatic health-care workers have been part of the recent “testing blitz”.

We tend to take for granted that the results of medical tests are accurate – but no test is perfect and all carry a risk of harm of some kind. Although there has been a drive to increase testing, we must recognise this is also true for coronavirus.

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