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New ray of hope for COVID-19 vaccine: A virus that harms your pet may actually be your healing touch

As per WHO, there are now 70 candidate vaccines in development.

Despite scientists working round the clock, no cure or vaccine has been found yet for COVID-19. Now researchers are saying that the virus that cause kennel cough in dogs may be the key to a cure.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : April 12, 2020 4:16 PM IST

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the world, scientists are desperately trying to understand the virus and find the best strategy to stop it. Till date, no vaccine or cure has been found for the infection. In fact, there are no vaccines that can protect people against infections by any strain of coronaviruses. This includes SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, as well as the ones that cause SARS and MERS. But now there seems to be a ray of hope on the horizon.

Will the kennel cough virus lead the way to a cure?

Researchers from the University of Iowa and the University of Georgia in Athens say that the approach they took for a MERS virus vaccine may also work against SARS-CoV-2 . According to them, the vaccine's delivery method is an RNA virus called parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5), which is believed to cause a condition known as kennel cough in dogs but appears harmless to people. They added an extra gene to the virus so that infected cells would produce the S, or spike, glycoprotein known to be involved in MERS infections. They say that though people have been exposed to PIV5, it seems to be an innocuous virus in humans. Lab tests showed that a single dose of the vaccine, given intranasally, effectively caused infected cells to produce the S protein, which in turn triggered immune responses against the protein in the animal host.

According to researchers of this study, 'finding an effective vaccine against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a race against time. One hundred per cent of the population is not going to be exposed to the virus the first time around, which means there will be more people to infect when it comes again.

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Let us look at a few other potential cures for COVID-19 that scientists are working on at present.

Convalescent plasma therapy

Across the world, researchers are looking at innovative solutions to finding a cure and Canadian scientists are no different. They are taking a rather unusual approach to treat COVID patients. Apparently, antibodies from the blood plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients can help in the recovery process of infected people. Known as the convalescent plasma therapy, this treatment procedure was earlier used to treat patients during the SARS, Ebola, H1N1 and the Spanish flu epidemic.

Anti-parasitic drugs

Australian researchers have found that the anti-parasitic drug, Ivermectin, can stop the COVID-19 from growing in cell culture within 48 hours. Researchers will now try to find out if the dosage permitted for use in humans will be effective against COVID-19. As there is no specific treatment for this new infection, doctors are currently using some existing drugs to relieve the symptoms of the disease.

A vaccine from the tobacco plant

A British cigarette company, British American Tobacco (BAT), has started pre-clinical testing of a tobacco plant-based COVID-19 vaccine. If everything goes according to plan, the company will start large scale production in the next two months. The company will develop the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.

The oral vaccine

Researchers at Israel's state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute have developed an oral vaccine for COVID-19. This vaccine may be able to turn COVID-19 into a very mild cold. Clinical tests will start soon.

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