The novel virus originated from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, and the number of infected people has reached more than 20,000, a total that surpasses the official cases tallied on the mainland during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Then, SARS infected 5,237 people in mainland China and had a global death toll of almost 800.
The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market in Wuhan (pictured), tests confirm.
Since the numbers are only going higher, and unfortunately, the cases have been also evidenced in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and Australia, among others — the need for a vaccine against the virus is immediate. A few cases of infected people with this virus have also been evidenced in Australia, Australia’s Doherty Institute managed to successfully grow the virus in a high-secured lab, thus being one step closer to developing the vaccine. All the evidenced cases in Australia had visited Wuhan recently.
Although a Chinese lab had previously cultured the virus, they didn’t share the results with researchers in the rest of the world, therefore limiting other’s capacity to diagnose the condition and work towards a cure, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. But, thankfully, since Australian researchers cultured the virus, they shared the results with colleagues worldwide through the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We got it. Fantastic (…)This is a step, it’s a piece of the puzzle that we have contributed,” Doherty Institute Deputy Director Mike Catton told reporters while emphasizing that the development alone won’t turn the tide in the battle against the coronavirus. The flu-like virus originated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
The virus was cultured from material collected from Melbourne’s first coronavirus patient, diagnosed barely 48 hours previously. At a press conference, the Institute’s Deputy Director Dr. Mike Catton described virus culturing as “an art”, one which the Doherty Institute has been practicing for years, studying related coronaviruses in anticipation that an outbreak like this one was coming.
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.
Not only this, but it will also enable researchers to develop a test for identifying people who might be infected with the virus before they even show any symptoms.
The Doherty Institute is the only lab in Australia that can test samples a second time and give a 100% answer about whether someone is infected or not. So, right now, patients in Australia with initial coronavirus symptoms undergo testing in the hospital, and their results go straight to this lab.
Other labs around the world have been working to culture the virus since their respective nations had their first diagnosed cases too, but have so far been unsuccessful. Dr. Julian Druce, who led the project at the Doherty Institute, attributed his team’s success to holding onto old-style culturing techniques that others have abandoned, with fresh cells permanently available should a crisis such as this one arise.
Catton added that this development of the virus would improve the ability of researchers to test how the virus behaves and the effectiveness of vaccines. “It also gives us the opportunity to create a first-generation antibody test,” Catton said. That would be an exceptionally valuable tool because it would make it much easier for the identification process of people who have caught the virus but shown no symptoms.
Antibody tests will also help epidemiologists work out how the virus spreads and where it is most likely to go next “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,” Druce said in a statement.
The novel coronavirus has already spread in other countries other than China.
By chance, Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, was filming the lab at the time when the final test confirmed the culturing had been successful; a rare case of a “Eureka moment” being witnessed by the media.
It’s not clear why the original Chinese culturing has not been shared internationally. However, Druce credited their release of the virus’s genome sequence with helping his team.
The family of two adults and two children were taken to Westmead Hospital in western Sydney on Monday afternoon after showing symptoms of the disease. The family was cleared Tuesday morning but six new cases are under investigation (dailymail.co.uk)
Timelapse video shows deserted streets in Wuhan, the city under lockdown at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 29, 2020