| 5.6°C Dublin

'Game-changer' - Australian scientists' vaccine hope in coronavirus battle

  • 'Game changer' as Australian scientists grow version of coronavirus
  • Virus has so far killed 132 people, infected more than 6,000 and is spreading across China and into 14 other countries
  • Laboratory-grown virus will now be shared with World Health Organisation in Europe

Close

Passengers wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus arrive at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, yesterday

Passengers wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus arrive at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, yesterday

REUTERS

Passengers wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus arrive at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, yesterday

Australian scientists have successfully grown a version of the Wuhan coronavirus described as a "game changer" in developing a candidate vaccine against the deadly illness, that experts are racing to complete within three months.

Researchers from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne said the breakthrough, revealed yesterday, will allow for accurate investigation and diagnosis of the virus which has so far killed 132 people, infected more than 6,000 and is spreading across China and into 14 other countries.

Prof Wang Linfa, from Duke-NUS medical school in Singapore, said the development was "highly significant as the scientific community outside China needs a live virus for all further research and response activities including a vaccine development".

The professor co-led a team that earlier identified bats as the natural host of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) - a similar pathogen to the Wuhan strain - and he sits on the World Health Organisation's Sars scientific research advisory committee.

A look at confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus around the world as China extends their new year holiday in an attempt to contain the spread.

"For the vaccine development, CEPI [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] is already working on it full steam and we are hopeful to have a candidate for clinical trial in three months," he said, referring to a Norway-based public-private coalition which tries to produce speedy vaccines for epidemics.

The joyful moment that Mike Catton, the co-deputy director of the Doherty Institute, confirmed the breakthrough was caught on camera by ABC. "We got it," he said. "Fantastic."

Close

Dr Mike Catton (right) and Dr Julian Druce speak to the media during a press conference at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images)

Dr Mike Catton (right) and Dr Julian Druce speak to the media during a press conference at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

He told the news channel the discovery was "vitally important" and would become a critical part of the toolkit to show if vaccines work.

Scientists will be able to test the effectiveness of any potential vaccine against a lab-grown version of the disease.

The laboratory-grown virus is also expected to be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who have not yet displayed any symptoms.

"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," Dr Catton said.

Dr Julian Druce, the Doherty Institute's virus identification laboratory head, called the development a "game changer".

The virus will now be shared with the World Health Organisation in Europe, which will in turn share it with laboratories around the world.

Timelapse of motorway in Wuhan, China, which is under lockdown following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Scientists have warned that the development of an efficient vaccine could take years, but the global race to create one began on January 10, when Chinese scientists made the genetic make-up of the virus available on a public database.

The worst-affected city of Wuhan hosts more than 300 of the world's top 500 companies, including Microsoft, Siemens and French carmaker PSA. The Hubei province, in which Wuhan lies, had a GDP of $595bn (€540bn) in 2018 - not far short of the economic output produced by London.

In recent years, the region has become a burgeoning hub for tech companies and carmakers in particular, triggering fears that the virus could negatively impact the global economy. Economists have warned that global growth is much more exposed to a Chinese slump compared with the Sars outbreak, which is estimated to have caused $50bn (€45bn) of damage to the world economy.

Wuhan is home to 10 car factories, including those run by major manufacturers such as Honda, Renault, PSA and General Motors.

The industry plays an important role in the broader Chinese car market and economy.

According to data from IHS Markit, carmakers in Wuhan are expected to produce 1.6 million vehicles this year, contributing 6pc of overall Chinese output.

Honda and PSA, which manufactures Peugeot and Citroen vehicles, each have three factories in the city. However, there are concerns about how the virus could affect these companies if they are forced to shut sites once the lunar new year holidays end on Monday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

In Pictures: Countries worldwide battle threat of deadly coronavirus Close

Travellers wearing masks arrive on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020.  REUTERS/David Ryder

Travellers wearing masks arrive on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

REUTERS

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout

via REUTERS

A news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO

A news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO

via REUTERS

Vietnam's Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son (R) talks with a man at an isolated section of a hospital where two Chinese citizens had tested positive for coronavirus, in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam January 23, 2020. Thanh Chung/VNA via REUTERS.

Vietnam's Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son (R) talks with a man at an isolated section of a hospital where two Chinese citizens had tested positive for coronavirus, in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam January 23, 2020. Thanh Chung/VNA via REUTERS.

REUTERS

Medical staff transfer a patient of a highly suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

Medical staff transfer a patient of a highly suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

REUTERS

Francisco Alvarez, the regional public health officer, speaks to dockworkers about the new coronavirus, in the port of Valparaiso, Chile  January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

Francisco Alvarez, the regional public health officer, speaks to dockworkers about the new coronavirus, in the port of Valparaiso, Chile January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

REUTERS

Dr Didier Houssin, chairperson of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout

Dr Didier Houssin, chairperson of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout

via REUTERS

A man stands in front of a screen showing that multiple departure flights have been cancelled after the city was locked down following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, at an airport in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 23, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

A man stands in front of a screen showing that multiple departure flights have been cancelled after the city was locked down following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, at an airport in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 23, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

REUTERS

Dr Didier Houssin, chairperson of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS

Dr Didier Houssin, chairperson of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS

via REUTERS

Travellers wearing masks arrive on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020.  REUTERS/David Ryder

Travellers wearing masks arrive on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

REUTERS

Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland January 23, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

REUTERS

A medical staff attends a patient with pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

A medical staff attends a patient with pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

REUTERS

Medical staff transfer a patient of a suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

Medical staff transfer a patient of a suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

REUTERS

Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. China closed off a city of more than 11 million people Thursday, halting transportation and warning against public gatherings, to try to stop the spread of a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. China closed off a city of more than 11 million people Thursday, halting transportation and warning against public gatherings, to try to stop the spread of a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

AP

A traveller wearing a mask arrives on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020.  REUTERS/David Ryder

A traveller wearing a mask arrives on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

REUTERS

A traveller wearing a mask arrives on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020.  REUTERS/David Ryder

A traveller wearing a mask arrives on a direct flight from China, after a spokesman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a traveller from China had been the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. January 23, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

REUTERS

Medical staff transfer a patient of a suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

Medical staff transfer a patient of a suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. Picture taken January 22, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

REUTERS

/

Telegraph.co.uk