Taiwanese researchers have successfully extracted a sample of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which could eventually lead to the development of a vaccine, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Friday.
The virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization.
As of Sunday morning, China had recorded 14,380 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 304 deaths, while nearly 160 confirmed cases have been reported in other countries around the world, including 10 in Taiwan.
According to Chen, the sample was extracted from the respiratory tract of one of the 10 patients in Taiwan, making Taiwan the fourth country, after China, Australia and Japan, to successfully isolate a sample.
The sample can be used to produce a lab-grown version of the virus and allow researchers to analyze how the virus infects its hosts, according to Liu Chia-chyi (劉家齊), a researcher at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology.
It could also help accelerate the development of diagnostic tests, and serve as a foundation for the development of a vaccine and cure, Shih Shin-ru (施信如), head of the Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections at Chang Gung University, told CNA.
In theory, 2019-nCoV vaccines could be produced in small quantities within five years, Shih said.
(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Chiang Yi-ching)