The spread of novel coronavirus has turned the world into an emergency state. While the strain of novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 might be new, the existence of coronavirus was discovered long back. And the woman credited with the discovery of coronavirus left the school at the age of 16.
June Almeida (born Hart) grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. While she left school at a young age, she started to work as a laboratory technician at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Dr Almeida identified coronavirus back in 1964 at her lab in St Thomas's Hospital in London. This is the same hospital where UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson was recently treated.
The virologist’s skills in electron microscopy helped in identifying coronavirus and reveal details on the pathogenesis of viral infections.
According to medical writer George Winter, Dr Almeida collaborated with Dr David Tyrrell, who was doing his research at the common cold unit in Salisbury. The lab was working on nasal samples. One of these samples, identified as B814, belonged to a student at a boarding school in Surrey.
The researchers found that some of the viruses were unable to grow in routine cell culture. The samples were then studied by Dr Almeida, who described them to be similar to influenza viruses but not exactly the same.
She also mentioned that she saw similar particles while investigating mouse hepatitis and infectious bronchitis of chickens. And that is the first time when someone identified coronavirus.
This new discovery was published in the British Medical Journal in 1965, while the first photographs of coronavirus were published in the Journal of General Virology in 1967.