Scientists around the world are working together to neutralize a menacing enemy to mankind this year — the novel coronavirus.
Everything — from research of the pathogen, genome sequencing to drug testing, and vaccine development — has geared up in a race against the virus.
IDENTIFYING THE CULPRIT
Recognizing what we human beings are fighting against is the first step towards defeating the virus.
Chinese researchers have responded swiftly after the outbreak. They isolated a new type of coronavirus from the first patients, figured out its entire genome sequence, and promptly shared it with the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome and shared it with the WHO and the world are very impressive, and beyond words. So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva on Jan. 30.
Follow-up research in other countries has also yielded fruitful results. Australian scientists said they have obtained a sample of the virus from a patient, and experts in Italy declared that they have succeeded in the separation of the coronavirus.
Johan Neyts, professor of virology at the University of Leuven, Belgium, told Xinhua that from identifying the virus to the development of a tool for testing, there are so many things that need to be done in such a short period. It is like a race against time.
FINDING A CURE
The WHO has said that there are currently no specific drugs for the new coronavirus, and the science community worldwide is working to find effective treatments.
Remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug developed by U.S. biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, has begun to attract attention in recent days.
A study published late January in the New England Journal of Medicine said the clinical symptoms of a coronavirus patient have eased after taking the medicine.
Associate Professor Ian Mackay of the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Center said in an interview with Xinhua on Monday that primary data show the effect of the new drug is inspiring but pending clinical trials of larger scale.
More good news came from Thailand. The Thai Ministry of Public Health revealed a case on its website on Feb. 2 that a combination of the anti-flu drug Oseltamivir, and the anti-HIV drug combination of Lopinavir and Ritonavir improved the condition of a coronavirus patient after 48 hours, who tested negative for the virus. Nevertheless, the medical team has found that the therapy may not be effective for all patients, with at least one allergy case reported.
RESEARCH NEEDS PATIENCE
Scientific research is difficult to accomplish overnight. The process of exploration is often a tortuous one. Experts are calling for more understanding and patience towards scientific researchers.
In the research of the new coronavirus vaccine, for example, understanding is always needed as vaccine development usually takes a long time.
Although the vaccine is highly unlikely to be able to catch up with the virus at the early stage of its spread, global scientific institutions and pharmaceutical companies are busy developing vaccines with a record efficiency.
Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has said that he hopes the vaccine could be applied to a clinical trial in a 16- week period but that a phase-1 trial may take as long as two to four months.
Committed to financing and coordinating the development of new vaccines, the alliance based in Norway has announced that it will offer a grant of 12.5 million U.S. dollars to three institutions to develop vaccines for the novel coronavirus.
“We aim to be able to manufacture more than 200,000 doses of a new vaccine, demonstrate safety and the likelihood of efficacy, and be ready for field deployment in as little as six months,” Dr. Keith Chappell, co-leader of a vaccine project at Australia’s University of Queensland, told Xinhua.
Source: Xinhua – BEIJING