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    Australian Scientists Grow Coronavirus' Traits In The Lab

    Doherty Institute lead scientist Julian Druce (right) with co-deputy director of the Doherty Institute Mike Catton (left)
    Global breakthrough as Australian scientists are the first to grow coronavirus in a lab - boosting hopes of a vaccine as death toll soars to 106 and travelers are told 'do not go to China'
    • Experts at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have grown virus from a patient 
    • A total of five cases have been confirmed in Australia with all patients said to be in stable condition in hospital 
    • About 400 Australians, including children, remain trapped in Wuhan amid deadly coronavirus outbreak
    • Death toll has passed 100 in China, while confirmed cases in the province of Hubei have reached over 4,000
    • Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt warned the outbreak has the potential of becoming a 'pandemic'
    • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
    Australian scientists have grown the 'dangerous' coronavirus in a high-security lab, a major step towards finding a vaccine.  Experts at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity took a sample of the virus from the first patient diagnosed in Australia on Friday.

    They worked around the clock to grow the virus on a bed of cells and were successful by Tuesday night. The scientists will now share the virus with the World Health Organisation, which will distribute it to labs around the world amid hopes a vaccine can be developed in two months.

    Doherty Institute lead scientist Julian Druce was part of the team who managed to grow the coronavirus
    The Doherty Institute is the second lab to grow the virus after one in China cultivated it last week. The Chinese lab, however, only released the genome sequence, meaning labs around the world still did not have a physical sample. Growing the virus is important for developing a vaccine because scientists can now test how it behaves. Scientists can also generate an antibody test, which can be used to detect the virus in patients without symptoms.

    When the Melbourne scientists had discovered they had grown the virus on Tuesday, co-deputy director of the Doherty Institute Mike Catton said: 'We got it. Fantastic.' He said the virus was 'dangerous' but not as deadly Ebola which killed 11,000 in west Africa from 2014 or SARS which spread from China and killed around 800 in 2003.

    'SARS we know had a death rate of about 10 per cent. This coronavirus appears to be three per cent. My personal opinion is it will turn out to be lower than that,' Dr Catton told the ABC. In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Dr Catton said growing the virus was a major 'piece of the puzzle' towards finding a vaccine - but warned there is a long way to go before the virus is eradicated. 

    The new coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China in early December and has since spread around world, killing more than 130 and infecting more than 6,000. There are five confirmed cases in Australia - all of whom had visited Wuhan recently.  On Wednesday morning government website Smarttraveller issued a 'do not travel' warning, telling Australian citizens to avoid China at all costs.

    More than 11million people are stranded and unable to travel in or out of the region as China stepped up preventive measures to limit its spread. The virus, which belongs to the same family as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), has spread to 17 countries, with Sri Lanka and Cambodia the latest to announce cases on Tuesday. A second diagnosed case was also confirmed in Canada.

    No deaths have been reported outside of China so far. Five people are being treated in Australian hospitals for the virus but Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said they were all in a stable condition. Health Minister Greg Hunt warned the disease is of 'pandemic potential' and the number of cases in the country is expected to rise as more are tested every day. 

    'There are a number of cases being considered in each of the states and territories, those numbers will literally change by the hour because some will be cleared and others will be tested,' he told Sky News. 'We do believe that there is a potential for further cases to be identified and therefore, to be announced. At this stage, the latest advice is that all five patients are being treated in isolation and all are stable and being well cared for.   

    'We have some of the strongest border protection measures in place around the world and we have biosecurity officials boarding all planes from China looking for symptoms. 'The Prime Minister has ordered all planes coming from China are boarded by security officials and that's an extremely important measure.

    'Every passenger is met with by biosecurity officials and not only are they provided with information, but there is a review of their symptoms and the situation.'  Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a travel warning on Wednesday, advising Australians to stay away from Hubei. 

    Minister Hunt said department officials are making 'significant progress' in finding a way for the Australians stuck in China to get home. A consular team in Shanghai has been dispatched to Wuhan to help negotiate their evacuation. 'They are being crosschecked to ensure there is no double-counting because sometimes you will have multiple family members report the same person, but at this stage, approximately 400 registrations have been placed with Foreign Affairs,' Mr Hunt said.

    On Tuesday, Western Australia was given the all-clear for the deadly coronavirus but public schools will take extra precautions to keep students safe.The state government on Tuesday confirmed four adult patients who were being closely monitored had tested negative to the virus.
    There are no further suspected cases  

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