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A screenshot of the coronavirus grown in a lab in Australia. Photo: Doherty Institute

Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, have become the first to re-create the Wuhan coronavirus outside of China.

Why it matters: It's a "significant breakthrough," which will enable accurate investigation and diagnosis of the virus globally, per a statement by the Doherty Institute released Tuesday morning (ET). It's hoped it will help efforts to treat the virus.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • Mike Catton, deputy director of the Doherty Institute, said at a news conference on Wednesday, "The virus can be used in the assessment of the effectiveness of vaccines particularly and of medicines."
"It also gives us the opportunity to create a first-generation antibody test, and that's important both in the clinical management of patients who may be late in the illness ... and it's also really important for us to look at things like asymptomatic infection with the virus or mild infection that hasn't come to the attention of health authorities, and those patients haven't been tested and identified as cases."

The big picture: Officials in China released the genome sequence of this novel coronavirus, "which is helpful for diagnosis," notes Royal Melbourne Hospital's Julian Druce, the head of the virus identification laboratory at the Doherty Institute, in the statement.

  • But "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.
[I]t will be a game-changer for diagnosis."
— Julian Druce statement

What they did: Scientists grew the virus from a patient sample at the Doherty Institute on Jan. 24.

What's next: The virus will be shipped to scientists at expert laboratories who are working closely with the World Health Organization in Europe, and it will be used in Australian public health labs as "positive control material," Druce said.

  • The Doherty Institute-grown virus is expected to be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who haven't displayed symptoms and were therefore unaware they had the virus, according to Catton.
  • "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 in a statement.
  • "It will also assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines."

Go deeper: What's happening with the coronavirus

Editor's note: This article has been updated with Catton's press conference comments.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 6 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.