Italian scientists at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases have isolated the rapidly spreading coronavirus, Italian media reported on Sunday.
This is coming even as the number of confirmed cases tops 14,000 in more than two dozen countries.
“This is important news of international relevance.
“It means there are more possibilities to understand and study the virus, in order to contain it,” said Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza.
The institute in Rome will make the results available for use in other countries so that further research can be carried out.
Experts are already racing to develop a vaccine.
Isolating the virus means obtaining a pure microbial sample from an infected person rather than growing it in a laboratory.
Researchers at the institute in Rome also investigate suspected cases of coronavirus.
Two cases have already been confirmed in Italy, affecting Chinese tourists infected in their home country.
The researchers said they had been able to isolate the virus within 48 hours of the diagnosis, according to the Ansa news agency.
Several days ago, Australian scientists managed to grow the coronavirus in a laboratory.