GSSTAR researcher aids Indonesian COVID-19 response

May 13 2020

A scientist who has been analysing seaweed in Indonesia with help from the GlobalSeaweedSTAR project is now using his skills in the battle against COVID-19.

Dr Eka Sunarwidhi Prasedya, a lecturer and biotechnology researcher from The University of Mataram Lombok in Indonesia, is now working alongside medical doctors from the University of Mataram Hospital to help detect cases of the virus in the West Nusa Tenggara region.

Dr Prasedya is using his skills in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to interpret samples from COVID-19 patients. PCR is a method widely used in molecular biology to make copies of a specific DNA segment. It is possible to generate potentially millions of copies of DNA sequences using PCR.

He explained: “We receive nasopharyngeal (throat) swab samples from our sampling team which collects it from patients. For me, I am responsible for operation and interpretation of RT-PCR results. Right now we usually receive and process around 50 samples per day but we are very limited in reagents and materials needed for viral RNA extraction and RT-PCR.”

Like other nations, the Indonesian economy is under severe strain from the COVID-19 pandemic and medical professionals are short of personal protective equipment (PPE). Positive cases in Indonesia are rapidly increasing as more labs contribute to the detection of the virus.

Dr Prasedya is proud to be able to help his country’s efforts in combating the virus but is looking forward to getting back to his seaweed project with Prof Phaik Eem Lim, a senior scientist with GlobalSeaweedSTAR and lecturer at the University of Malaya.

Their project is to analyse genetic diversity of Kappaphycus and Eucheuma seaweeds in Indonesia. Dr Prasedya added: “As a young researcher, GSSTAR has helped me to build networking with not only scientists in the biomolecular and seaweed field, but also farmers and local industries which currently depend on seaweeds as their main financial income.”