By John Isaac
A DAY after Israel claimed that it has achieved a “significant breakthrough’ in developing an antibody to the coronavirus and applied for a patent, Italy has now announced that it has developed a vaccine for the virus that could effectively work on humans, said reports in the international media.
The tests are being carried out at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital where researchers from the firm Takis have successfully managed to generate antibodies in mice that “work” on human cells.
Scientists experimented with the vaccine on mice that had successfully developed antibodies that blocked the virus from infecting human cells in a lab.
The reports added that the researchers observed that the five vaccine candidates generated a large number of antibodies, and selected two with the best results.
Virologists and vaccine experts from India meanwhile pointed out that the vaccine being developed from Italy could still be in the early stages and more advanced developments have already been reported from UK and China.
“By all accounts so far, the research from Italy still seems to be in an early stage of development because it has just been tested with antibodies from mice,” said Dr T Jacob John, senior virologist associated with Christian Medical College, Vellore.
According to reports in The Indian Times, a vaccine expert with the Union government’s department of biotechnology said that many vaccines work in mice, but could mean nothing till the trials are undertaken in humans.
So far, two Covid-19 vaccine studies in the UK and China are said to be in the most advanced stage.
Oxford University has already initiated a phase-1 human clinical trial of its vaccine on April 23, where two volunteers were injected with the vaccine.
The vaccine — ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 — was developed in less than three months by the University’s Jenner Institute.
It uses a weakened strain of common cold virus, adenovirus, that causes infections in chimpanzees. For the vaccine to work, scientists took the genetic material of the novel coronavirus present on the surface of the virus and put it in the adenovirus.
A similar project has been reported from China too.
On Tuesday, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett had announced that the country had a “remarkable breakthrough” in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
He was quoted as saying that the country’s Institute for Biological Research has developed a monoclonal neutralising antibody, which will effectively neutralise novel coronavirus in the body of the carriers.
In India, vaccine development efforts are still in the preliminary stages.