Italian scientists say they have developed the first vaccine capable of killing the coronavirus.
Researchers say they plan to test their jab on humans in the fall after laboratory tests on mice.
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Scientists injected the virus with the animals and discovered that they were able to produce antibodies that could prevent the virus from infecting human cells.
Luigi Aurisicchio, managing director of Takis Biotech who is behind the vaccine, said: “To our knowledge, we are the first in the world to date to demonstrate neutralization of the coronavirus by a vaccine. “
The top academics, however, said they would be surprised if none of the other vaccines in development had shown a similar response in mice.
Experts from the University of Oxford are already testing humans in the UK and plan to have millions of jabs ready by early summer.
To our knowledge, we are to date the first in the world to have demonstrated a neutralization of the coronavirus by a vaccine
Last week, the team reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for a huge deployment of the vaccine at cost price.
The company is committed to producing 100 million doses this year if the tests prove positive.
This comes when Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned yesterday that there is no guarantee that a Covid-19 vaccine will be found.
Hancock told Sky News, “If a vaccine cannot be found, we must learn to find a way to live with this virus.
“So that means the numbers need to be reduced and maintained through, for example, large-scale testing and then tracing the virus using a combination of technology and human contact tracers. “
Italian researchers compared a single dose of five different vaccine candidates in mice at Spallanzani hospital in Rome.
All of the vaccines were DNA-based, which involves injecting a small amount of cloned genetic code for the virus into the body.
This method means that the dose is not made up of a weakened or deactivated virus, so it can be produced on a large scale in the laboratory – without the need for fresh samples.
It works the same as if the recipient were infected with the real virus because it triggers an immune response – the body’s own defense mechanism.
The researchers found that each candidate vaccine produced a “strong antibody response” to the virus in 14 days.
But two with the best results were selected as the ones to use for a future clinical study, the team said.
Antibodies were then taken from the blood of the mice and added to human cells, which were grown in a petri dish.
Scientists have said they are able to fight the infection and successfully prevent SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – from binding and infecting human cells.
Aurisicchio told the Italian news agency ANSA: “This is the most advanced stage of testing a candidate vaccine created in Italy.
“According to Spallanzani Hospital, to our knowledge, we are the first in the world to date to have demonstrated neutralization of the coronavirus by a vaccine.
“We expect this to also happen in humans. “
He said human trials are expected “after this summer”.
But infectious disease experts say the team’s results – which have not been made public – are promising, but they have a “long way to go.”
But Dr. Andrew Preston, who specializes in microbial pathogenesis and vaccines at the University of Bath, told MailOnline: “It looks like they took antibodies from the mice, went to the laboratory, grew cells humans in dishes, added the virus with and without the antibodies and what they claim is that the antibodies prevented the virus from infecting human cells.
“Chances are it will happen.” But it is a huge extrapolation to say that this is what will happen during the infection [in a human]. “
He added that the Italian team had tested an immune response and not the vaccine itself.
Professor Adam Finn of the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Center said: “They have a way to go before they get into human trials – they’re pretty much the same place as most vaccines. “
According to the World Health Organization, at least eight vaccines are under clinical evaluation to test their effectiveness in preventing Covid-19.
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One includes ChAdOx1 – the vaccine developed by experts at the University of Oxford – with human trials underway last month.
Another from Imperial College London is slated to be administered to volunteers this summer.
Meanwhile, a hundred additional vaccines have been listed as being in preclinical stages – including that of the Italian researchers.
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