Young ‘virus hunter’ stays on the front­line af­ter 90-day fight in Wuhan


Bei­jing: Wang Ji, a front­line “virus hunter” who had con­ducted nu­cleic acid tests in Wuhan, Hubei Prov­ince, cen­tral China, for 90 days, missed a wa­ter sa­lute - the warm­est sign of re­spect, hon­our and grat­i­tude for he­roes - for him and his col­leagues at the air­port in Bei­jing on April 20. Mr Wang, a staff of the China Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC), had been dis­patched to de­tect the novel coro­n­avirus in Suifenhe, Hei­longjiang Prov­ince, north­east China.

Suifenhe, lo­cated at the Chi­naRus­sia bor­der and 2680km away from Wuhan, is fac­ing a mount­ing chal­lenge of im­ported cases.

“It is a pity that we missed the huge re­cep­tion in Bei­jing, but as­sist­ing Suifenhe to fight against the virus is more im­por­tant. We fought in Wuhan. Now we are fight­ing in Suifenhe. We are de­tect­ing for the novel coro­n­avirus from the south to the north,” he told

Virus hunter

Nu­cleic acid test­ing is the most re­li­able test for de­tect­ing the novel coro­n­avirus. It is a tech­nique used to de­tect a par­tic­u­lar nu­cleic acid se­quence to iden­tify a virus or bac­te­ria that acts as a pathogen in blood, tis­sue and urine.

“We are the peo­ple who are ex­posed most fre­quently to the virus and the closest to the virus,” Mr Wang said.

The first group of China CDC mem­bers ar­rived in Suifenhe on April 12.

They built a mo­bile nega­tive pres­sure lab­o­ra­tory on the first floor of the lo­cal CDC build­ing. Af­ter in­stalling equip­ment within five hours, they started to re­ceive and an­a­lyse sam­ples on the same day.

Dur­ing the test­ing, the staff need to wear dou­ble layer of gloves, op­er­at­ing cap, pro­tec­tive suit and other per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment. In­for­ma­tion at­tached to sam­ples must be checked more than three times. Be­sides sam­ple tubes, each step of the de­tec­tion needs to be ster­ilised. It usu­ally takes 19 min­utes to ex­tract the nu­cleic acid, and one and half hours for its am­pli­fi­ca­tion. Be­fore get­ting test re­ports, they usu­ally work for four hours with­out eat­ing, drink­ing or go­ing to the toi­let.

“Sam­ple test­ing is a race against the time. The ear­lier, even one minute ear­lier, we find the pos­i­tive cases, the less peo­ple will be in­fected,” Mr Wang said.

Back in Jan­uary, Wang ar­rived in Wuhan and col­lected sam­ples in the Hua­nan seafood mar­ket, on Jan­uary 19. De­spite the heavy work­load and less than ideal liv­ing con­di­tions, Mr Wang re­mained en­er­getic and in­spired thanks to the sup­port of the lo­cal peo­ple.


While con­duct­ing tests for the virus in Wuhan, Wang and his col­leagues had no idea when they could go back home. They were told that they could leave in ad­vance if it was nec­es­sary but none of them de­serted the front­line. They watched the pro­found changes in the city within the 90 days of their stay, from peo­ple pre­par­ing for the Spring Fes­ti­val to the city be­ing locked down and the grad­ual re­cov­ery and re­turn to nor­malcy.

“We will bring the spring of Wuhan to Suifenhe, win­ning the bat­tle against the epi­demic in a timely man­ner,” he said.

Wang Ji, a staff of the China Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

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