Australia

Australian scientists create lab-grown version of deadly coronavirus, paving way for vaccine

Researchers at a company in Wuqing District, Tianjin Municipality, China, 27 January 2020 Source: XINHUA

Australian scientists have created a lab-grown version of the deadly coronavirus, becoming the first team outside of China to do so.

Australian scientists have managed to replicate the coronavirus in laboratory conditions in a medical breakthrough that could help speed up the development of a vaccine to combat the deadly virus.

Researchers at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have become the first to recreate the virus outside of China.

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The lab-grown virus - which was developed from an infected patient - will assist with accurate diagnosis of the disease across the world.

It will be shared with expert laboratories working closely with the World Health Organisation in Europe, along with laboratories across Australia.

It will also help assess the effectiveness of trial vaccines.

Chinese officials had released the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus which first surfaced in its Hubei province in December.

But the Peter Doherty Institute's Virus Identification Laboratory Head Dr Julian Druce says this development will be a "game-changer for diagnosis".

"Having the real virus means we now have the ability to actually validate and verify all test methods, and compare their sensitivities and specificities," he said on Wednesday.

The virus is expected to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who haven't displayed symptoms and were therefore unaware they had it.

The institute's deputy director Dr Mike Catton said that will help develop a more realistic picture of how the virus is tracking.

"An antibody test will enable us to retrospectively test suspected patients so we can gather a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is, and consequently, among other things, the true mortality rate," Dr Catton said.

Australian chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said the creation of the live virus was significant, particularly for providing controls for tests and speeding up an antibody test.

"It's a very significant development and it's very, very positive," he told ABC Radio.

Medical workers in Wuhan form an "assault team" to battle against the deadly coronavirus epidemic.
Medical workers in Wuhan form an "assault team" to battle against the deadly coronavirus epidemic.
AAP

Researchers across the world are trying to develop a vaccine to stop people dying from the coronavirus.

The death toll has jumped past 100 and there are now more than 4500 confirmed cases of infection in mainland China.

The city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the illness, remains on lockdown along with other Chinese cities as China authorities scramble to stop the disease spreading.

Five people are being treated in Australian hospitals for the virus, with four of those cases in NSW alone.

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