SARS vaccine ready... almost

SARS vaccines are just 18 months away from being widely available, according to Canadian scientists.

    Nearly 9000 were affected worldwide by the killer virus in 2003

    Microbiology professor Brett Finaly said his team was developing a human vaccine as fast as possible.

    But the man responsible for the SARS Accelerated Vaccine Initiative admitted he had not yet had time to consider how it will be manufactured once clinical tests are completed. 


      
    However, the University of British Columbia vaccine team has successfully coaxed mice and rabbits to produce antibodies that neutralise the corona virus which scientists say produces severe acute respiratory syndrome (or SARS).

    They now plan to test three different vaccines on ferrets before moving on to monkeys.
      
    Bending the rules

    It usually takes eight to 10 years to obtain regulatory approval in Canada for vaccines, but concern over the outbreak that killed 44 in Toronto and 774 worldwide has caused province-funded research to be fast-tracked.

    A severe flu season this fall in Canada is also making it difficult to identify possible cases of SARS because the symptoms are very similar, prompting mass flu vaccinations nationwide.
      
    "If SARS returns, we don't have eight to 10 years. We have to move fast, so we're planning human safety trials [of the vaccine] within a year.

    “If SARS rears its ugly head before then, we'll bypass ferrets and go straight into primates," Finlay said.
      
    Human trials would be hurried to have a vaccine ready to go into production by spring 2005, he said.
      
    Race for success

    “If SARS rears its ugly head before then, we'll bypass ferrets and go straight into primates"

    Brett Finlay,
    professor of microbiology,
    University of British Columbia 

    Although the last reported case of SARS left hospital in August - a researcher infected in a lab in Singapore - other scientists around the world are working feverishly to develop a vaccine.

    The World Health Organization announced last month accelerated international efforts could produce a SARS vaccine within two years.
      
    Chinese researchers led by Yin Hongzhang of the State Food and Drug Administration say they plan to inject volunteers this month with a vaccine made from a dead sample of the corona virus.

    They hope to sensitise their immune system and prepare volunteers to fight off a live strain.
      
    Tests on animals have proven effective.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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