Local lab grows coronavirus
Australian scientists have successfully grown the Wuhan coronavirus in a lab.
The virus has been grown in cell culture outside of China for the first time.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Dr Julian Druce says it is a significant breakthrough, as it will allow accurate investigation and diagnosis of the virus.
“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.
“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.”
Dr Mike Catton says possession of a virus isolate extended what could be achieved with molecular technology in the fight against this virus.
The lab-grown virus could be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who have not displayed symptoms and so are unaware they have the virus.
“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,” said Dr Catton.
“It will also assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines.”
The virus was grown from a patient sample that arrived at the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute on Friday, 24 January.
“We’ve planned for an incident like this for many, many years and that’s really why we were able to get an answer so quickly,” said Dr Catton.
Dr Catton also credited the success to Australia’s network of laboratories and public health authorities effectively working together.
“We are very pleased at how it has come together and are glad we were able to respond quickly, which we will continue to do so.”