While the global pandemic has made people from the majority of the countries go under isolation and lockdown, experts are still working on finding the vaccine and treatment to cure COVID-19.
Almost 35 companies and academic institutions are involved in working to create a vaccine, at least four of which already have candidates they have been testing in animals.
SARS-CoV-2 shares almost between 80% and 90% of its genetics with the virus that caused Sars – hence its name. Both consist of a strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA) inside a spherical protein capsule that is covered in spikes. The spikes attach on to receptors on the surface of cells lining the human lung – the same type of receptor exists in both cases – allowing the virus to break into the cell. Once inside the body, it hijacks the cell’s reproductive mechanism to multiply and replicate itself, before breaking out of the cell again and killing it in the process.
How do vaccines work in the human body?
Antibodies are a kind of memory of the immune system which, having been exposed once, can be quickly mobilised again if the person is exposed to the virus in its natural form.
All vaccines work in the same manner. The vaccine usually in the form of an injection or at a low dose presents a part or all of the pathogen to the human immune system. This prompts the system to produce antibodies to the pathogen. Pandemics generally affect the hardest those countries that have weak and less equipped healthcare systems or underdeveloped countries, there is an inherent imbalance between supply-demand and purchasing power when it comes to vaccines. During the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, for example, vaccine supplies were hoarded up by nations that could easily afford them, leaving underdeveloped ones short. But there could be a scenario where some country being the major supplier of vaccines to the developing world –decides to use its vaccine production to protect its own huge population first, before exporting any.
Current scenario of vaccine
Scientists at health organizations have been concerned to get a better understanding of the virus’ genetic material, how it infects cells and how to effectively treat it. There’s no cure at present , and medical specialists can only treat the symptoms of the disease. Various different ways of treatment have been proposed and some older drugs seem to be associated with positive outcomes — but much more work is required and research is still going on.
Development of new vaccines and treatment options would require time, and they must be rigorously tested and confirmed safe via clinical trials before they can be safely used in humans on a regular basis. The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, Anthony Fauci, has frequently mentioned that the successful development of a vaccine for Covid-19 is at least a year to 18 months away.
Over to you
The novel coronavirus has been the potentially fatal respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It has spread across the world with unexpected speed and ferocity. It forced the cancellation of several major events, postponed sports seasons, and sent the world into complete self-isolation and lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread. Every country’s health authorities and governments are attempting to flatten the curve and mitigate extensive transmission in the community, while biotech firms, health experts and researchers turn their attention to the coronavirus causing the disease: COVID-19.