Wuhan coronavirus: No vaccine or treatment yet for deadly infection, may take months to develop one
The National Institutes of Health and other institutes are working towards developing a vaccine; those infected should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms, says CDC
There is currently no vaccine nor a specific treatment for the disease caused by Wuhan coronavirus, even as China and other countries are stepping up their efforts to tackle the outbreak.
“There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for 2019 coronavirus infection. People infected with 2019 coronavirus should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions,” says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), many of the symptoms caused by this virus can be treated, and treatment should be based on the symptoms of the patient.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is working on developing a vaccine and start early-stage human testing in three months for this new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness in humans and animals. In humans, this large family of viruses are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
According to experts, the experience with SARS is helping jumpstart the response for the new Wuhan coronavirus.
“Current studies at NIAID-funded institutions and by scientists in NIAID laboratories include efforts that build on previous work on SARS- and MERS-CoVs. For example, researchers are developing diagnostic tests to rapidly detect 2019 novel coronavirus infection and exploring the use of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs to treat 2019 coronavirus,” says NIH.
“NIAID researchers also are adapting approaches used with investigational SARS and MERS vaccines to jumpstart candidate vaccine development for 2019-nCoV. Advances in technology since the SARS outbreak have greatly compressed the vaccine development timeline, the authors write (in a JAMA viewpoint essay). They indicate that a candidate vaccine for 2019-nCoV could be ready for early-stage human testing in as little as three months as compared to 20 months for early-stage development of an investigational SARS vaccine,” says the report.
The JAMA report says that during SARS, researchers moved from obtaining the “genomic sequence of SARS-CoV to a phase 1 clinical trial of a DNA vaccine” in 20 months and have since compressed that timeline to 3.25 months for other viral diseases. “For 2019-nCoV, they hope to move even faster, using messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology. Other researchers are similarly poised to construct viral vectors and subunit vaccines,” say experts.
In an interview with Bloomberg Law, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the “NIAID is collaborating with Moderna Inc., a Cambridge, Mass. biotechnology company, to use its RNA-based vaccine technology to develop a new vaccine.”
However, according to Nature, no drugs have been shown to be effective in treating SARS or other coronavirus infections in humans, and no vaccines aimed at preventing these infections have been licensed.
The novel coronavirus -- termed 2019-nCoV -- was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and it continues to expand.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has asked the University of Queensland (UQ) to develop a vaccine, which could be available worldwide in as little as six months.
According to the UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj AC, the fluidity of the current outbreak represented a significant challenge to the international community.
“There is a lot that is still unknown regarding how easily the virus is able to be transmitted between humans. Working with CEPI, The University of Queensland is using its vaccine technology to respond to this global health challenge,” he says.
Dr. Keith Chappell, from UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said the key to the speedy development of this potential vaccine was the 'molecular clamp' technology, invented by UQ scientists and patented by UniQuest. He explained this technology provides stability to the “viral protein” which is the primary target for our immune defense.
Professor Paul Young, head of University's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, says that the team hopes to develop a vaccine over the next six months.
“The vaccine would be distributed to first responders, helping to contain the virus from spreading around the world,” says Young.
In the absence of a cure currently, Chinese health experts are looking at both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine to tackle the disease, according to some reports.
“We will spare no efforts in the treatment of patients. We will mobilize the best medical resources and experts, and combine both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medical treatment, in order to reduce the number of deaths as much as possible,” says a report on China.org.cn.