Coronavirus: Australian researchers grow the virus in lab

29 January 2020 (Last Updated February 13th, 2020 10:15)

Scientists in Australia have developed the deadly coronavirus, becoming the first to recreate the virus outside China.

Coronavirus: Australian researchers grow the virus in lab
The laboratory-grown virus is set to be used to produce an antibody test. Credit: CDC on Unsplash

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Australian scientists have developed the deadly coronavirus, becoming the first to recreate the virus outside China.

Researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne have grown the virus in laboratory conditions from a patient sample. The institute is a joint venture (JV) between the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne.

The discovery looks to be hopeful in providing international laboratories with critical information to help fight the deadly coronavirus.

Doherty Institute virus identification laboratory head Dr Julian Druce said: “Chinese officials released the genome sequence of this novel coronavirus, which 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. This will be a game-changer for diagnosis.

“The virus will be used as positive control material for the Australian network of public health laboratories, and also shipped to expert laboratories working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe.”

The lab-grown virus is set to aid the production of an antibody test, enabling early detection of the virus in patients who are yet to show symptoms.

Dr Catton said: “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.”

“It will also assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines.”

Meanwhile, the deadly coronavirus has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 in China.