Science

Science

China sets out its targets for Covid-19 vaccines
Covid-19 vaccines must protect at least half of those given the injection and provide at least six months’ immunity if they are to be approved for use in China, the country’s drug regulator has announced. According to a draft document released by the Chinese Center for Drug Evaluation (CCDE), 50% is the minimum efficacy rate allowable, although 70% is the target. The document said also that the regulator would consider allowing the emergency use of vaccines that have not yet completed their final phase of clinical trials. Chinese companies are among the frontrunners in the race to produce a vaccine for Covid-19, with four candidates undergoing final testing. A total of 29 products are under
Covid-19 vaccines may be ready in early 2021. That’s a start
With six Covid-19 vaccine candidates undergoing final clinical trials, initial data about whether they can protect people from the disease is expected to be available in the next two to three months, assuming all goes well. That gives hope to the possibility that a vaccine could hit the market by early next year. However, that does not necessarily mean the global community will be out of the woods.  One concern is that, while the possible candidates use different technologies, they have adopted a similar strategy for attacking the SARS-CoV-2 virus.   The worry is that if the one candidate proves to be effective, the chances of the others succeeding are high. But the opposite scenario also a
Potential Coronavirus vaccines head towards crucial third step
The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has taken on critical importance as the disease continues to charge through the global population, with almost 15 million confirmed cases and nearly 615,000 deaths. The world hopes a vaccine can be a silver bullet out of the crisis, and new results from some of the teams leading development are showing early promising signs. But the real test lies ahead in the final-phase trials, experts say. The new data out on Monday includes a vaccine candidate produced by a team at Oxford University, working in partnership with British firm AstraZeneca. The candidate was safe and induced strong immune responses in combined phase-one and phase-two trials, according to a st
Covid-19 vaccine urgent as few people have antibodies, Chinese study finds
A Covid-19 survey led by China’s top respiratory disease expert has found the country’s population immunity to be at a low level, underlining what researchers called the “urgent need” for a vaccine. The survey tested the presence of antibodies in over 16,000 people who had not fallen ill from the disease in Wuhan, the initial epicenter of the pandemic, and the southern city of Guangzhou. It found only 2.14% and 0.59% of people in the respective cities had Sars-CoV-2 antibodies by the end of April. “The relatively low [level] suggests that prevention and control measures in China are effective,” wrote the researchers, led by respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan, in a letter published in the journ
We may never find the origin of the coronavirus
Scientists with experience tracking virus behavior say the search for the origin of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could take years of work and may not reach a definitive conclusion. This is despite a team of WHO experts expected to meet Chinese health officials this weekend to set parameters for an international mission. One obstacle is time itself. Tracking the virus transmission route more than six months after the outbreak was identified in central China will be a herculean task. Exactly how, where and when the pathogen first infected a human is a mystery. The consensus is that Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, likely came from a bat. It may have found its way into
China’s leaders in Covid-19 vaccine race use a method shunned in the West
As China leads the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, its scientists are largely pinning their hopes on a technology that has been used for decades. Five out of 10 potential vaccines undergoing clinical trials have been developed by Chinese scientists, while a sixth is the result of a partnership between a Chinese company and a German biotech firm, according to the World Health Organization. But China is adopting a very different approach in its hunt for a vaccine against the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It is the only country pouring resources into the use of inactivated viruses, a technique used in vaccines against numerous diseases in the past – including hepatitis A, influenza
‘Congee boiling in a pot’: the volcano in China they thought was extinct
A volcano in northeast China could be “recharging” for an eruption, with a vast amount of magma believed to be rising up underneath it, according to a team of geophysicists. The researchers say they discovered two huge magma chambers under Wei Mountain in Heilongjiang, near the border with Russia and North Korea. Their modeling suggests the chambers dwarf the volcano, which is 328 feet tall and 3 miles wide. It was a surprise discovery, since the volcano last erupted more than 500,000 years ago and was considered extinct. Geologists have been more focused on Changbai Mountain (known in North Korea as Mount Paektu), to the south, whose eruption in 946AD was one of the most powerful volcanic e
Covid-19: China must not be complacent, top expert says
China still faces the risk of a second wave of coronavirus infections, but another big outbreak is unlikely thanks to the country’s tight prevention and control measures, according to the country’s top respiratory disease specialist. “With our intensive follow-up monitoring procedures, the risks of a second wave [of coronavirus infections] exist but another peak is unlikely to occur [in China],” Zhong Nanshan said. Zhong, who heads a team of experts advising the Chinese government on the pandemic, said the authorities should not be complacent, with the coronavirus continuing to spread around the world. In addition, most people in China and East Asia had yet to develop immunity to the pathoge
Covid-19 blame game could scupper research, China’s top disease expert warns
The blame game between the US and China is putting important Covid-19 research at risk, according to China’s most renowned respiratory expert. Zhong Nanshan, 83 – who had a leading role in fighting the 2002-03 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic and now advises the Chinese government on Covid-19 – said scientists around the world needed to team up to establish where the new coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, had come from. He said US epidemiologist Ian Lipkin, whom he had known since they worked together on the Sars outbreak, had approached him with a method to establish how the virus jumped to humans. But the work could be stalled for fear it would be distorted by political a
Chinese bat scientist says known viruses ‘just tip of the iceberg’
A Chinese virologist at the center of conspiracy theories over the coronavirus’ origin has publicly defended her work, saying it contributed to the fast identification of the new pathogen and would help protect against future outbreaks. Shi Zhengli – dubbed China’s “bat woman” for her research on coronaviruses in the mammals – told state broadcaster CGTN on Monday those studies had “enabled us to understand the cause of the unknown pneumonia a short time” after the first cases of the disease later named Covid-19 emerged late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Days after patient samples were obtained on December 30, scientists isolated the pathogen, believing it to be a new type