COVID-19 is a new disease but is caused by a type of Coronavirus.
During Dr Tyrrell’s trials in Salisbury, he took samples from unwell subjects at a boys’ boarding school. He theorised, that because the particles from the disease were so small, the illness must be caused by a virus.
But these samples behaved differently to ones he’d seen before, such as Rhinovirus, as they became inactive in fat solvent ether. However, technology was not available and this meant it was difficult to study the details without an electron microscope which was still being developed.
He turned to colleagues for help, Tony Waterson from St Thomas Hospital and June Almeida who was expanding the range of electron microscope to far greater limits. Samples were prepared and sent with coded labelling to encrypt the origins and see if Tyrrell’s colleagues agreed with his theories.
June Almeida used the latest techniques to study them and identified them all as viruses. The sample labelled B814 particles, from the boys’ school, looked like influenza but were not the same.
She stated she has seen something similar before but her paper had been rejected by the scientific community because ‘the images she produced were just bad pictures of influenza virus particles’ Together they had found 3 new viruses.
But what should they be called?
‘We looked more closely at the appearance of the new virus and notice they had a kind of halo around them…. The name coronavirus was born.’
(Dr Tyrrell, Cold Wars)