Human virus vaccine trials begin in UK




Trials of a vaccine that could protect people against the potentially deadly virus that causes the COVID-19 disease are set to begin in the UK.

Clinical teams at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group are working on the vaccine.

Research, which began in January, has now extended to a study involving more than 500 healthy volunteers aged from 18 to 55.

The UK is now the third country raccing to develop a vaccine, joining the US and China in human trials.

"There are not currently any licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19 but vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one," said Professor Saul Faust, director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Southampton.

"This vaccine aims to turn the virus' most potent weapon, its spikes, against it - raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock on to and destroy the virus." The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically altered so it is impossible for it to grow in humans.




Global drug manufacturer Roche aims to launch a new coronavirus test next month to detect if people have already recovered from the deadly disease as a new study shows the true global infection toll may be up to 85 times higher than the reported 2.3 million cases.


Drug manufacturer Roche aims to launch a new coronavirus test next month to detect if people have already recovered from the deadly disease - a major step towards ending lockdowns.

Roche says it could make tens of millions of kits by June as they ramp up production of the new tests.

"Roche Diagnostics has been working around the clock to develop a high-quality antibody test," said Geoff Twist, managing director of Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland.

"We are now collaborating with public health bodies to validate the new antibody test and our aim is to commence a phased rollout across the UK from mid-May."

Antibody tests show who has already had coronavirus and is therefore immune, even those Meanwhile, a new study in the US says the coronavirus infection toll may be far higher than the official tally of 2.3 million.

The frightening study says the actual rates of infection in one US county studied could be between 50 to 85 times higher than reported.

Stanford University used an antibody blood test to estimate how many people had been infected with COVID-19 in the past in Santa Clara County, California.


Other tests, like those performed with nasal swabs or saliva, test for the virus' genetic material, which does not persist long after recovery, as antibodies do.

"We found that there are many, many unidentified cases of people having COVID infection that were never identified with it with a virus test," said Dr Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University and one of the paper's authors.

"It's consistent with findings from around the world that this disease, this epidemic is further along than we thought."

The study estimated that 2.49 per cent to 4.16 per cent of people in Santa Clara Country had been infected with COVID-19 by April 1.

If 50 times more people have had the infection, the death rate could drop by that same factor, putting it "somewhere between 'little worse than the flu' to 'twice as bad as the flu' in terms of case fatality rate," Dr Bhattacharya said.


Meanwhile, it has been revealed that at least 78 COVID-19 vaccines are in development, four of which have reached human trials - two each from the US and China.

The pace of progress has been unprecedented, enabled by a quiet biotech revolution which has smouldered for years, fanned by previous efforts to fast-track vaccines for ebola and SARS.

"It's not a question of how many vaccines will succeed in the laboratory, but which can be brought up to scale," Thomas Breuer, the chief medical officer for GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines business, told the Times.

Johan Van Hoof, global head of vaccines for Johnson & Johnson, said: "The demand will be so high that you will need more than one vaccine coming to the finish line. One supplier couldn't do the job."


An antibody test cartridge for COVID-19. Picture: AP
An antibody test cartridge for COVID-19. Picture: AP


Johnson & Johnson's ultimate goal is to produce 200 million COVID-19 vaccines a month.

When the trials are done, the final challenge will be creating enough doses to give the world herd immunity.

GlaxoSmithKline, the British drugs giant, said that it would work with its French rival Sanofi on a project that hopes to produce hundreds of millions of doses annually by the end of next year.








Originally published as Human virus vaccine trials begin in UK