A team of British scientists believe they are among the first to start animal testing of a vaccine for the COVID-19 outbreak.
Researchers at Imperial College London said that their ultimate goal was to have an effective and safe way of halting the strain’s spread by the end of the year.
“At the moment we have just put the vaccine that we’ve generated from these bacteria into mice,” Imperial College London researcher Paul McKay said in an interview on Monday.
“We’re hoping that over the next few weeks we’ll be able to determine the response that we can see in those mice, in their blood, their antibody response to the coronavirus,” McKay said.
Scientists across the world are racing to develop a way to stamp out the new strain of a well-known virus that has been successfully combated in the past.
Imperial College London said that it cannot be sure how advanced other teams’ research is at the moment.
China’s Xinhua state news agency cited a local news report as saying that a Shanghai university also injected a test vaccine into mice on Sunday.
However, the local report cited unnamed sources and there has been no official announcement about the Chinese tests.
Coming up with a vaccine is a laborious process that usually involves years of animal testing and clinal trials on humans.
Regulators must then make sure that the vaccine is both sufficiently safe and effective to be mass produced.
Imperial College London hopes that research on the SARS coronavirus nearly two decades ago can speed things up.
“We’re hoping to be the first to get this particular vaccine into human clinical trials, and that perhaps is our personal goal,” McKay said.
“Once the phase one trial is complete — which can take a few months to complete — it can be immediately started into an efficacy trial in people, which will also take a few months to complete,” McKay added. “So, perhaps by the end of this year there will be a viable tested vaccine that would be suitable for use in people.”
Meanwhile, the British businessman who became known as a “super-spreader” of COVID-19 on Tuesday said that he had fully recovered, but remained in isolation in a central London hospital.
Steve Walsh issued a statement via his company from Guy’s and St Thomas’ National Health Service Foundation Trust after catching the virus on a business trip in Singapore.
He is believed to have infected at least 11 other Britons — five in a ski chalet in the French Alps and another five since he returned to his home city of Brighton on England’s southeast coast.
Another person was diagnosed while on vacation in Spain.
British health authorities have so far tested 1,358 people and recorded eight cases inside the kingdom.
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