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Hope for a COVID-19 vaccine?

So much now depends on developing a vaccine against COVID-19, but how long could that take?

The best estimate is that it would take at least twelve months. The best chance currently is one being developed in the United States.

One way to generate a vaccine is to replicate the bit of the virus that causes the immune system to react, but without the virus' potential for taking over the cells of the body that host it. It is a bit like finding a key that fits a lock but doesn't allow the thief to enter.



The estimate is that a vaccine for Covid-19 is at least 12 months away. A trial of a vaccine has begun in the United States.

The group based in Seattle, Washington, had been working on a similar virus and so have been able to switch to Covid-19.

They have reproduced a bit of RNA that acts as a template for a bit of the virus that would be recognised by the immune system. 

It is an ingenious trick they are using, which is to use a bit of RNA to get cells of our bodies to produce a protein that forms part of the outer shell of the coronavirus.

A virus is essentially a packet carrying all the RNA needed to create new replica viruses.   It needs the machinery of our cells to do this.  It is a bit like an alien species that invades our cells so that these cells then manufacture replica viruses that can then be released.

RNA, among other things, is a molecule that is used by our cells as a kind of template to produce particular proteins.  In this case, by injecting a bit of RNA, our immune system will hopefully then start producing antibodies to the protein it produces. It will then have the 'memory' or ability to produce it in response to the same protein on the virus shell. Very neat

Currently, it is in a Phase 1 trial stage, which looks at safety issues and whether the immune system is producing antibodies to the protein.

If it looks promising, it will then be rolled out for a larger trial to test for its efficacy in creating immunity to COVID-19 in the population. 

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