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US firm’s vaccine shows promise in first phase, tests to be expanded

OUMA WANZALABy OUMA WANZALA
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ELIZABETH MERABBy ELIZABETH MERAB
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A Covid-19 vaccine that has been developed by an American biotechnology company has been found to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response in the humans against the virus, its manufacturer, Moderna, announced on Monday.

This is the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people. The findings are based on results from the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine.

In the phase one clinical trial, eight patients who received the vaccine at the lowest and middle doses developed neutralising antibodies to the virus. When measured, the levels of their antibodies were found to be similar to those of people who had recovered from the disease.

Although the results of the study, which was led by the National Institutes Health, are yet to be peer-reviewed or published, the findings have been hailed as encouraging.

Results on eight of the healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 revealed that they developed antibodies that when subjected to a test in infected cells in the laboratory were able to stop the virus from replicating.

This means that the vaccine which has been shown to work in the small study will now be tested in larger, longer studies.

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Moderna’s technology, which involves genetic material from the virus called mRNA, is relatively new and has yet to produce any approved vaccine.

Meanwhile, Kenyan researcher Dr F. George Njoroge and his team of scientists at Merck Pharmaceutical Company have said that a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of hepatitis C has now demonstrated good potency in inhibiting Covid-19 proliferation in cells.

Dr Njoroge said the drug, boceprevir, had a strong binding to the enzyme that Covid-19 uses to process its proteins.

The paper on the study was recently published by Jun Wang and researchers at the University of Arizona.

Dr Njoroge said he was excited to undertake further studies on the drug. He now wants the World Health Organization to review the available data and determine whether the drug could be added to the list of others that are undergoing clinical trials as a single agent or in combination with other antiviral inhibitors such as remdesivir.