Italian scientists claim world-first coronavirus vaccine breakthrough

Italian scientists claim world-first coronavirus vaccine breakthrough
An Italian coronavirus vaccine has antibodies generated in mice that work on human cells, according to tests carried out at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 05 May 2020

Italian scientists claim world-first coronavirus vaccine breakthrough

Italian scientists claim world-first coronavirus vaccine breakthrough
  • A coronavirus disease (COVID-19) candidate vaccine has neutralized the virus in human cells for the first time

ROME: An Italian coronavirus vaccine has antibodies generated in mice that work on human cells, according to tests carried out at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital.

Luigi Aurisicchio, CEO of  Takis, the firm developing the medication, said that a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) candidate vaccine has neutralized the virus in human cells for the first time.

“This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy,” Aurisicchio told the Italian newsagency ANSA. “Human tests are expected after this summer,” he added.

“According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralization of the coronavirus by a vaccine. We expect this to happen in humans too,” said Aurisicchio.

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He explains that Takis is exploring “more interesting technological platforms with LineaRx, an American company.

“We are working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy and made available to everyone. In order to reach this goal we need the support of national and international institutions and partners who may help us speed up the process.”

Aurisicchio added: “This is not a competition. If we join our forces and skills together we can all win against coronavirus.”

Italian researchers describe the results “encouraging and well beyond expectations.”

After a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies that can block the virus from infecting human cells, Aurisicchio said.

After observing that the five vaccine candidates generated a large number of antibodies, researchers selected the two with the best results.

Serum was isolated from the antibody-rich blood; it was then analyzed in the virology laboratory of the Spallanzani Institute, one of the most advanced establishments in Europe. The next step now is to understand how much the immune response lasts.

All of the vaccine candidates currently being developed are based on the material genetic of DNA protein “spike”, the molecular tip used by the coronavirus to enter human cells.

They are injected with the so-called “electroporation” technique, which consists of an intramuscular injection followed by a brief electrical impulse, helping the vaccine break into the cells and activating the immune system.

Researchers believe that this makes their vaccine particularly effective for generating functional antibodies against the “spike” protein, in particular in the lung cells, which are the most vulnerable to coronavirus.  

“So far, the immunity generated by most of our five vaccine candidates has an effect on the virus. We expect even better results after the second vaccination,” said Dr Emanuele Marra from Takis.

Marra added that those vaccine candidates could adapt to any COVID-19 evolutions and its possible mutations.

“We are already working on a trial version in case the virus accumulates mutations and becomes invisible to the immune system. For this purpose, we use the same concept we use in developing cancer vaccines,” he said.


British Asian celebrities produce video to tackle coronavirus myths

 British-Asian celebrities have produced a video to dispel coronavirus myths and urge people to get a vaccine. (AFP/Screenshots/File Photos)
British-Asian celebrities have produced a video to dispel coronavirus myths and urge people to get a vaccine. (AFP/Screenshots/File Photos)
Updated 9 min 7 sec ago

British Asian celebrities produce video to tackle coronavirus myths

 British-Asian celebrities have produced a video to dispel coronavirus myths and urge people to get a vaccine. (AFP/Screenshots/File Photos)
  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and former Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi are also included in the video

LONDON: British-Asian celebrities including cricketer Moeen Ali and comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Meera Syal have produced a video to dispel coronavirus myths and urge people to get a vaccine.

The video was organized by “Citizen Khan” creator Adil Ray, who said that he wanted to tackle falsehoods surrounding vaccinations for those from ethnic minority communities.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and former Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi are also included in the video.

Conspiracy theories and myths about coronavirus vaccines have caused concerns about uptake, particularly in the South Asian community.

“We all just feel we needed to do something,” Ray told the BBC.

He appears in the five-minute video with celebrities like former “Coronation Street” actress Shobna Gulati, who used her space in the clip to say: “We will find our way through this. And we will be united once again with our friends and our families. All we have to do is take the vaccination.”

Comedians Sanjeev Bhaskar, Asim Chaudhry and Ranganathan were on hand to debunk common coronavirus myths.

Ranganathan joked: “There’s no chip or tracker in the vaccine to keep watching where you go. Your mobile phone actually does a much better job of that.”

A recent poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health showed that just 57 percent of black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) would be happy to receive a vaccine, compared with 79 percent of white Britons.

Dr. Harpreet Sood, an NHS doctor heading up an anti-discrimination effort, said fake news and myths were likely behind the worrying numbers for the BAME community.

The UK government has recently started to tackle the problem directly, with UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick arguing that faith leaders were crucial to vaccine uptake. His announcement came as he opened the UK’s first vaccination center in a mosque.

Jonathon Kitson, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, told Arab News: “Mass vaccination is the only way out of the pandemic, and it is great to see people from all backgrounds working to dispel myths, fake news and conspiracy theories like this.”

He added: “The faster the rollout can take place, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

Sam Bowman, co-founder of a new myth-dispelling website called “Anti-Virus: The COVID-19 FAQ,” told Arab News: “It is absolutely vital that everyone realizes that the vaccine is a safe, effective ticket back to normal life. It will mean that people of all ages are safe to see each other again, and go back out to work and their old lives.”

He added: “It’s great to see this video correct the misinformation being promoted — anyone pushing an unscientific anti-vaccine lie needs to be publicly contradicted and exposed as the shysters they are.”