Recently HKU’s Professor Yuen Kwok-yung stated that since he and his team of researchers were able to isolate the previously unknown virus from Hong Kong’s first imported case of the deadly Wuhan Coronavirus, they have been working on a vaccine. In the same vein, researchers in mainland China and the United States are as well in a race to produce a vaccine to take care of the deadly new coronavirus which emanated from China. Latest reports say as it is now, Hong Kong researchers have actually developed a vaccine for the deadly viral disease except that more time is needed to carry out tests with it – according to infectious diseases expert, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung.
“We have already produced the vaccine, but it will take a long time to test on animals,” Yuen said, without giving a specific time frame on when it would be ready for patients’ use. He said however, that it would take months to test the vaccine on animals and nothing less than one year afterwards to be able to carry
out clinical trials on humans prior to when it would can be certified as being appropriate for use. The study by the HKU scientists was based on a nasal spray influenza vaccine which was invented earlier by Yuen and his study team.
They modified the flu vaccine with part of the surface antigen of the coronavirus, which implies that it could avert influenza viruses and the new coronavirus, which is responsible for pneumonia. Earlier, Chinese infectious diseases expert Li Lanjuan was quoted as saying a vaccine that is directed at the coronavirus was in the works and that it could be available in about a month’s period from then, but Yuen is not certain that could be possible. He stated that the one being expected from mainland China is possibly going to be an inactivated virus vaccine, which is made up of a virus developed in a culture that has had its infectivity shattered by chemicals or radiation.
Yuen said in testing the vaccine, it will have to be administered to an animal to check whether it will result in a good immune response. The animal that is thus vaccinated would at that point be exposed to the virus to see if is protected. “If the vaccine appears effective and safe in a number of animal species, it will go into clinical trials on humans. This takes at least one year even if expedited,” Yuen said.
He also expressed his concern about the method adopted by the mainland side to develop a vaccine leading to a serious complication, wherein people who were vaccinated may likely come up with a more deadly disease if they should come in contact with the virus. He added that there exist reports of such a reaction for coronavirus incidents in the past. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that give rise to diseases and infections extending from the common cold to more serious diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
For the meantime, Xinhua has recounted that Shanghai East Hospital of Tongji University had approved straight away a task for the development of a vaccine that is aimed at tackling the new virus. Sources say the vaccine would be co-developed by the hospital and Stemirna Therapeutics, a Shanghaibased biotechnology company. The Chief Executive Officer of the Company, Li Hangwen said at most 40 days would be required to produce vaccine samples, which would then be sent for trials and then brought to clinics “as soon as possible”.
By Kunle O. Sanyaolu