Scientists in Australia have become the first to recreate the new coronavirus outside of China in what they have called a “significant breakthrough”.
The discovery will be shared with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the hope it may help efforts to diagnose and treat the virus.
Scientists in China have also recreated the virus and shared its genome sequence, but not the virus itself.
The outbreak has killed 132 people in China and infected close to 6,000.
There are at least 47 cases confirmed in 16 other countries, including in Thailand, France, the US and Australia. No deaths have been reported outside China.
Researchers at a specialist lab in Melbourne, Australia, said they were able to grow a copy of the virus from an infected patient. The sample was sent to them last Friday.
“We’ve planned for an incident like this for many, many years and that’s really why we were able to get an answer so quickly,” said Dr Mike Catton of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.