There are two confirmed cases of the strain of coronavirus dubbed 2019nCoV in the UK, and more than 24,500 cases worldwide. Experts have been working tirelessly to create a vaccine in a bid to battle the virus, with the UK’s leading scientists believing they have made a major breakthrough.
Researchers from Imperial College London stated they are able to reduce part of the development time of the vaccine from a matter of years to days.
Animal testing could start as early as next year, with human studies coming later in the year if enough funding is secured.
Professor Robin Shattock, head of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College London, told Sky News: “Conventional approaches usually take at least two to three years before you even get to the clinic. And we’ve gone from that sequence to generating a candidate in the laboratory in 14 days.
“And we will have it in animal models by the beginning of next week. We’ve short-tracked that part. The next phase will be to move that from early animal testing into the first human studies.
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“And we think with adequate funding we could do that in a period of a few months.”
Prof Shattock added that the vaccine he and UK scientists are working on will likely be too late for the current breakout, but if it were to rear its head again, experts will be prepared.
“It’s not going to be too late if this becomes a pandemic and if it circulates around the world. We still don’t know much about the epidemic itself so it may wane over the summer months if it is like influenza.
“We may see a second wave come through on a global basis and if it comes a vaccine will be really important and would be in place to tackle that.”
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The UK has increased its spend on fighting the virus to £40m from £20m as health secretary Matt Hancock says the government is “taking no chances”.
More and more people are beginning to recover from the coronavirus, with almost 1,000 people returning to health.
However, almost 500 people have died from the disease.
A study from Chinese health officials, which examined 99 patients, revealed that the main symptoms of the virus are fever and a cough on admission to hospital.
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Other symptoms include a shortness of breath, headaches, aching muscles and confusion according to the research published in the journal The Lancet.
The research also found the average age of the patients is 55, and half of the people studied were already were suffering from a pre-existing chronic disease.
Perhaps the most surprising find however is that the virus seems to infect more males than females.
The research points out that 68 percent of people infected by the virus were males, with the researchers struggling to understand why.
However, they do theorise: “The reduced susceptibility of females to viral infections could be attributed to the protection from X chromosome and sex hormones, which play an important role in innate and adaptive immunity.”