Canberra, 29 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Australian scientists have created a version of the deadly coronavirus in a laboratory setting, becoming the first team outside of China to achieve the medical breakthrough that could pave the way towards the development of a vaccine.
Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne said Wednesday that the institute’s scientists successfully grew the coronavirus from an infected patient sample on January 24.
The virus will be shared with expert laboratories working closely with the World Health Organisation in Europe, as well as with Australian labs, to help combat the virus, the Institute said.
The virus will assist with the accurate diagnosis of the disease and help assess the effectiveness of trial vaccines against the deadly outbreak that originated in Wuhan in China in December.
Julian Druce, head of virus identification laboratory at the Doherty Institute, said the creation was “a significant breakthrough” as it allows accurate investigation and diagnosis of the virus globally.
It is the first time the novel coronavirus has been grown in cell culture outside of China, where authorities had previously released the genome sequence of the virus that is helpful for diagnosis.
“However, having the real virus means we now have the ability to actually validate and verify all test methods, and compare their sensitivities and specificities – it will be a game-changer for diagnosis,” Druce said in a statement.
Australian chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told Radio ABC on Wednesday the creation of the live virus was a “very significant development… very positive.”
The Wuhan virus has killed more than 100 people, all in China, and spread to a dozen countries, with five confirmed cases in Australia.