QUEENSLAND: in a major breakthrough in the global fight against coronavirus, scientists in Australia have developed a lab-grown version of the disease.
• Australian scientists have become the world’s first outside of China to copy the coronavirus
• The discovery will enable scientists to develop a test to identify people who might be infected, even before they show any symptoms
• It will also help speed up work towards a vaccine for the disease, which has claimed more than 100 lives in China and infected six Australians
Described as a “game-changer” that will help scientists determine whether a future vaccine is effective, experts at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity on Tuesday became the world’s first scientific lab outside of China to copy the virus.
They will now share it with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe, which will in turn share it with labs worldwide — including one from Queensland — involved in the worldwide race to develop a vaccine.
The team of scientists grew the virus from a patient who had been infected since Friday.
The ABC was in the lab the moment scientists discovered they had successfully grown the virus, with Mike Catton, the co-deputy director of the Doherty Institute, confirming it with three words.
“We got it,” he said. “Fantastic”
Dr Catton told the ABC the discovery was “vitally important” and would become a critical part of the toolkit to show if vaccines work, with scientists able to test any potential vaccine against a lab-grown version of the disease.
It will also enable researchers to develop a test to identify people who might be infected with the virus, even before they show any symptoms.
Right now in Australia, patients with initial coronavirus symptoms undergo testing in hospital, with samples sent to the Doherty Institute, the only lab in Australia that can test samples a second time and give a 100 per cent answer about whether someone is infected or not. But this could all change following Tuesday’s discovery. (ABC News)