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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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

Updated 40 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.