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Meet June Almeida, Who Discovered Corona Virus

Very few people knew the name of novel corona virus before it’s recent outrage throughout the world. To many, it’s a recently discovered virus. However it isn’t. The virus that causes the life threatening disease called Covid-19 had been discovered three and a half decades ago.

The person who first discovered the virus was June Almeida, a virologist who had to left school at the age of 16. June was the daughter of a Scottish bus driver.

The virus June Almeida discovered in 1968 in St. Thomas Hospital was the basic form of today’s wide spreading novel corona virus. The scientific name of the disease this virus generates is Covid-19.

June Almeida (1930-2007)

June Almeida was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1930. Grown up in a tenant, June could study in school till she was 16.

She then joined in a hospital in Glasgow as a laboratory technician. Later June moved to London. There in 1954, June got married with Venezuelan artist Enriques Almeida.

Few years later June Almeida with her husband and only daughter moved to Toronto, Canada. There she developed great skills with electron microscope.

During her days in Toronto, June Almeida with few others, engineered a method of observing viruses more clearly by enlarging them using antibodies. Getting informed about June’s talent and skill, her old workplace St. Thomas Hospital invited her to return to their lab. Responding their call, June Almeida went back to London once again in 1964.

At St. Thomas Hospital Medical School, June Almeida started to work with Dr. David Tyrrell, who then was researching on common cold. He was working on some such viruses associated with common cold, among which he was able to grow most of the viruses, but some he couldn’t. Dr. Tyrrell sent some specimens of those to June Almeida so that she can check them through electron microscope.

After examining them under electron microscope, June Almeida reported that one of the viruses is similar to influenza, but not exactly the same. That was the time June Almeida identified a new type of virus, which is today’s wide spreading corona virus.

However, June Almeida had seen that virus even before while researching on mouse hepatitis and infectious bronchitis of chickens. She sent the details and picture of that virus to a noted science journal. But the journal had rejected June’s claim stating that the image was nothing but a ‘bad picture’ of influenza virus.

Later the same discovery made by June Almeida in St. Thomas Hospital Medical School was published in British Medical Journal in 1965. The image of the virus was published in another journal two years later.

After the discovery, Dr David Tyrrell, June Almeida and in charge at St Thomas Hospital Medical School Prof. Tony Waterson named the virus as ‘corona’. The word that came from Latin means crown. As the image of the virus showed a circle surrounding it, they name it as such.

After leaving St. Thomas, June Almeida later joined at London’s Postgraduate Medical School. There she was honored with a doctorate. June ended up her official career at Wellcome Institute. After retirement, she worked as a yoga teacher for a while.

But in 80’s June Almedia had to return to her old field in advisory role, as the world was then threatened by another deadly disease AIDS. June contributed to generate image of HIV virus that causes the disease.

In 2007 at the age of 77 June Almeida passed away. Today the world is remembering her heavily as her discovered virus is causing unprecedented sufferings and panic throughout the globe.