Wuhan Coronavirus vaccine one step closer after sample grown in a lab

29 Jan 2020

Australian scientists have developed the first lab-grown version of the Wuhan coronavirus. Image: PA

Researchers in Australia said they have grown Wuhan coronavirus in a lab in a major move towards developing a vaccine.

Scientists have successfully grown a version of the Wuhan coronavirus, which could pave the way for the development of a vaccine against the deadly illness. Researchers from The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne said the breakthrough will allow for accurate investigation and diagnosis of the virus globally.

The Doherty Institute’s Virus Identification Laboratory head, Dr Julian Druce, called the development a “game changer”. The virus, which is believed to have emanated from the city in Hubei province, has killed 132 and infected nearly 6,000 people around the world.

“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,” 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 Organisation in Europe.”

Map of the world showing countries with confirmed coronavirus cases.

Coronavirus: confirmed cases. Image: PA Graphics

‘We’ve planned for an incident like this’

The virus was grown from a patient sample that the Doherty Institute received on 24 January. The laboratory-grown virus is expected to be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who have not yet displayed any symptoms.

Deputy director of the Doherty Institute, Dr Mike Catton, said the team had been planning for an incident like this for some time.

“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,” Catton said.

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

– PA Media