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First human trials of coronavirus vaccine could start within days after US bypassed animal testing

THE first human trials of a coronavirus vaccine are set to be launched within days, according to scientists.

The trials accelerated past the animal testing stage and will now be used on health volunteers and eventually infected patients if deemed safe.

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It comes as more than 2,000 people across the US have tested positive for the killer bug that has also taken 49 lives.

The most recent was an 82-year-old woman in New York City who died last night after she was confirmed to have the virus on top of emphysema and had been in the hospital since March 3.

Moderna has created what they think is a cure using a different route compared to traditional methods.

Typically, a weaker bug is deliberately planted in the body so a patient can learn to fight off the infection.

However, the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company is using a new method where messenger RNA stimulates the immune system to create protein similar to the coronavirus to combat.

The vaccine prototype is currently funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Dr Melanie Saville of the foundation told The Telegraph: "Contain and delay is the approach taken in the UK and a number of different countries.

"The approaches are really to buy time in the context of the stretch it puts on the healthcare system – it also buys time for vaccines to be developed.

"We don't know how the pandemic will evolve, whether, for example, it comes in various different waves."

In the UK, scientists said a vaccine could be tested on humans by June after trials in mice worked "really really well".

Senior researcher Dr Paul McKay, of Imperial College London, told the Express: "I've got results from a month after I injected (the mice) and the vaccine works really, really well."

Some experts worry that rushing a vaccine could end up worsening the infection.

Coronavirus carries a risk of what is known as vaccine enhancement, where instead of protecting against infection it actually makes it worse when a vaccinated person is infected, according to studies.

What causes this risk is not yet fully understood and has been a reason why there hasn't been a successful development of the coronavirus vaccine.

It normally takes researchers months to test possibility of vaccine enhancement in animals, but given the urgency of spread of the killer bug – some companies are going straight to small-scale human tests.

Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said: "I understand the importance of accelerating timelines for vaccines in general, but from everything I know, this is not the vaccine to be doing it with."

Dr Hoetz, who worked on the development of a SARS vaccine, added: "There is a risk of immune enhancement. The way you reduce that risk is first you show it does not occur in laboratory animals."

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