Melbourne Researchers Grow First Coronavirus Sample

Researchers say they can now accurately investigate and diagnose the virus.
Donna Fuscaldo

Researchers hailing from Melbourne's The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity were the first to grow the Wuhan coronavirus from a patient sample. It also marks the first time the virus has been grown in a cell culture outside of China. 

Calling it a significant breakthrough, Dr. Julian Druce of The Royal Melbourn Hospital said researchers can accurately investigate and diagnose it globally now. 


Better diagnoses coming thanks to the sample

“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 - it will be a game changer for diagnosis,” Dr. Druce said in a press release announcing the researchers work. 

“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 virus was grown from a sample that arrived at the hospital on 24, January. 

Coronavirus spreading around the world

The grown virus is expected to be used to develop an antibody test, which enables the detection of the virus in patients who haven't displayed any symptoms and weren't aware they had it. That, said the researchers, will enable them to create a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus really is and a true mortality rate. “It will also assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines,” said Dr. Mike Catton, deputy director of the Doherty Institute. 

As it stands the Wuhan coronavirus has now surpassed the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak in terms of reach with the number of deaths confirmed at 132. There are more than 6,000 cases of infected people around the world. In China alone, the death toll rose by 26 in one day. Currently, 17 countries outside of China have reported infected patients. 

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