More than 100 potential vaccines against Covid-19 are in development around the world but none has yet been solidly proven to be able to effectively protect people from the virus that has killed more than 400,000 people worldwide.
Amid the race for a vaccine, Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, has become the first drug to be able to save the lives of Covid-19 patients. Dexamethasone’s encouraging performance has prompted scientists to hail it as a “major breakthrough”.
The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, experts say. The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus.
It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth. Had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.
Trial results announced by the University of Oxford on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among Covid-19 patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen.
Scientists at Imperial College London will start the first clinical trials of a potential Covid-19 vaccine this week with funding from the British government and philanthropic donors.
The trials involve about 300 healthy volunteers who will receive two doses of the vaccine to test whether it is safe in people and whether it produces an effective immune response.
In Singapore, scientists testing a vaccine from U.S. firm Arcturus Therapeutics plan to start human trials in August after promising initial responses in mice.
AstraZeneca’s potasssssential coronavirus vaccine is likely to provide protection against contracting Covid-19 for about a year, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
The vaccine being evaluated by Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School works on the relatively-untested Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which instructs human cells to make specific coronavirus proteins that produce an immune response.
In China where the coronavirus originated, China National Biotec Group (CNBG) said on Tuesday its experimental vaccine has triggered antibodies in clinical trials and the company plans late-stage human trials in foreign countries.
The vaccine, developed by a Wuhan-based research institute affiliated to CNBG’s parent company Sinopharm, was found to have induced high-level antibodies in all inoculated people without serious adverse reaction, according to the preliminary data from a clinical trial initiated in April involving 1,120 healthy participants aged between 18 and 59.