Coronavirus vaccine to begin human trials
A vaccine for the coronavirus may be within reach as the first U.S. study of a drug to treat the virus has begun at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
The National Institutes of Health said on Tuesday that the first clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of biotech firm Gilead's antiviral drug 'remdesivir' in adults diagnosed with the coronavirus has started on the first participant, an American who was evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.
Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control warned that the virus will spread to the U.S. and significantly affect daily life.
"We expect we will see community spread in this country," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness."
More than 80,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide and the death toll has eclipsed 2,700.
The United States has 57 confirmed cases, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.
U.S. biotech firm Moderna is also developing a coronavirus vaccine and have shipped an experimental vaccine to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases just 42 days after it began researching an immunization.
NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said that a clinical trial could start by April, the "first step" in making a vaccine available for use.
Fauci said that researchers could expedite the approval process for a vaccine following a successful Phase 1 trial in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, but even then, a vaccine would not be available for public use for at least a year to 18 months.
Other entities such as pharma giant Johnson & Johnson and the U.S. government are also trying to develop an immunization to the virus.