Aussie researchers map immune response

Whilst the rest of us concentrate on what we can do individually to limit the spread of coronavirus/Covid-19, practicing social distancing and getting accustomed to working remotely, medical researchers are working diligently on developing a vaccine that do wonders to halt the virus. Any potential vaccine will need to undergo months of clinical trials before it can safely be released for general public consumption, but important developments are occurring now.

Mapping Immune Response

Researchers at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have mapped the immune system’s response to the novel coronavirus, they did this by testing the blood of a 47-year-old woman from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the initial outbreak, who came to hospital in Australia after feeling ill. At four separate times during her 14-day recovery, researchers drew blood and examined the different cell types active. Monitoring which cells were present and comparing that with how close the woman was to recovering, the researchers collected valuable information that will inform what a potential vaccine needs to contain to stimulate the growth of those immune cells.

Clinical Trials

China’s CanSino Biologics and are set to begin clinical trials in Wuhan on a drug called Ad5-nCoV, which uses an adenovirus-based viral vector. The 108 participants aged 18-60 will be divided into three groups, each receiving different amounts of the vaccine. Testing will continue throughout the year.

US-based Moderna Therapeutics is already administering mRNA-1273 to participants in Washington state, the hardest hit area in the US so far. Vaccines in the US are typically tested on animals before human trials begin, but this vaccine, which contains genetic code copied from the virus, is going straight to people. Four patients were injected Tuesday. Dr John Tregoning, an expert in infectious diseases at Imperial College London, told the BBC: “This vaccine uses pre-existing technology.

“It’s been made to a very high standard, using things that we know are safe to use in people and those taking part in the trial will be very closely monitored.

“Yes, this is very fast—but it is a race against the virus, not against each other as scientists, and it’s being done for the benefit of humanity.”

Treating Current Patients

Whilst we wait on a vaccine to prevent infection, Chinese officials have said Japan-based Fujifilm Toyama Chemical’s drug Favipiravir has proven effective in treating the afflicted. Broadcaster NHK said patients given the medicine tested negative for the virus a median of seven days faster after a positive test than those who did not receive it. “It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective, Zhang Xinmin of China’s science and technology ministry announced Tuesday.

Japanese doctors, who are also using Favipiravir, also called Avigan, say timing of the drug administration is crucial. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” a health ministry source told the Mainichi Shimbun.