The search for a vaccine for the coronavirus, now named Covid-19 by the World Health Organization, is underway worldwide. Four major groups of scientists and researchers are racing to develop a vaccine using various technologies, backed by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, set up in 2017 in the wake of the ebola outbreak in in West Africa that killed 11,000 people.
The German pharmaceutical company CureVac in Tubingen, Germany, and Moderna Therapeutics of Pennsylvania, United States, are working together on a vaccine based on ”messenger DNA” that would issue instructions to the body to produce the proteins to fight the virus.
Inovio, also of Pennsylvania, is working with Beijing scientists in research on the genetic coding of the virus to get the body’s cells to produce proteins similar to those on the surface of the virus. The immune system learns to recognize the proteins so it is ready to attack the virus when it enters the body.
French scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris are modifying the measles vaccine to work against the coronavirus.
Australian researchers at the University of Queensland are using “molecular clamp” technology” invented by the university’s scientists to rapidly develop new vaccines based on the virus DNA sequence. The Australian scientists hope their vaccine will be ready in six months.
Even as research continues to develop a vaccine that will fight the virus, it seems there is yet no definite finding about how the coronavirus invades and infects a human victim. If this can be established, it will mean fewer victims for the vaccines to treat.
The “current understanding” on how Covid-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar viruses. It is believed to spread between people in close contact with each other (about six feet) via respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and these droplets land on the mouths or noses of people and inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) that a person can be infected by touching a surface that has the virus, then touching the face. “But this is not the main way the virus spreads,” the CDCP said.
The biggest concentration of coronavirus cases outside China was the Diamond Princess cruise ship forced to dock offshore in Yokohama, Japan, for two weeks. The China Center for Disease Contol and Prevention said the virus can also be transmitted along a potential fecal-oral route – via hands, food, and water where the microbes enter the mouth or eyes or are inhaled. It thus recommended strengthening sanitation and hygiene measures, including drinking boiled water, avoiding eating raw food, implementing separate meal systems, frequent hand washing, disinfecting toilets, and preventing water and food contamination from patients’ stool.
The cases are beginning to go down in China but they are multiplying in Europe, in the Middle East, and in Asia. In time, there will be a vaccine that will stop the disease, just as other epidemics have been stopped before. In the meantime, we need more information about how Covid-19 actually spreads so that more preventive measures can be taken to supplement the search for a vaccine to cure infected persons.
Tags: Roni Santiago