- Experts from three American institutes are collaborating with a team from Fudan University in Shanghai
- National Institutes of Health is also working on a vaccine that could start human trials in three months
Chinese and American scientists are working together to develop a vaccine against the deadly new strain of coronavirus that has killed 25 and sickened hundreds across mainland China.
At present, there is no cure for the virus which has pneumonia-like symptoms and is contagious among humans. Officials have told hospitals to quarantine any suspected patients and their close contacts.
The World Health Organisation on Thursday stopped short of declaring the virus a global public health emergency, despite China's climbing death toll. The virus had spread to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States as of Thursday. Japan on Friday reported a second confirmed case.
Experts from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, the University of Texas, the non-profit New York Blood Centre and Fudan University in Shanghai are collaborating on the project, Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor College's National School of Tropical Medicine, told state news agency Xinhua.
"(Vaccine) development is not a fast process, and it's not clear whether we would have a vaccine ready to use before this current epidemic ends," Hotez was quoted as saying. He added that there were likely to be more cases in the US.
The United States reported its first coronavirus case on Tuesday " a male resident of Washington state who had been to Wuhan. A second suspected case has been reported in Texas, where authorities are investigating a student at Texas A&M University who had also travelled from Wuhan.
The outbreak, which began in December, is likely to have originated at a seafood and live animal market in the central Chinese city, where the vast majority of confirmed cases have been found. Wuhan and seven other cities in Hubei province are now in lockdown as authorities try to limit the spread of infection.
The US National Institutes of Health has also started to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, which could start human trials in three months, a top NIH official said on Wednesday.
"We're already working on it," Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
"And hopefully in a period of about three months, we'll be able to start a phase one trial in humans."
But medical experts were apparently divided on how severe the impact of the new coronavirus could be, as much was still unknown about it, including its transmission patterns.
"The only good news is that it appears so far that this coronavirus is not as transmissible from person to person as was Sars," Hotez was quoted as saying. "But we're still early in this epidemic and we have a lot to learn."
However, other experts who have studied the virus have warned that it could have a much bigger impact than severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed almost 800 people worldwide in 2002-03.
"At a conservative estimate, the scale of infection may eventually be 10 times higher than Sars," Guan Yi, a virology professor at the University of Hong Kong, told Caixin on Thursday.
Guan, who is director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, was on the team that first identified Sars, and recently visited Wuhan to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.
"I've experienced so much and I never felt scared. Most of them are controllable. But this time I'm afraid," he said.
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