© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An illustration created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the new 2019 corona virus
By Alessandra Galloni
(Reuters) – A leading U.S. scientist said Wednesday that governments should not expect a successful vaccine against COVID-19 to be developed soon if they decide to ease the pandemic containment restrictions.
William Haseltine, a pioneering researcher in cancer, HIV / AIDS, and human genome projects, said the better approach now is to treat the disease through careful infection tracking and strict isolation measures if it spreads.
While a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed, he said, "I wouldn't expect it."
Vaccines that were previously developed for other types of coronaviruses could not protect the mucous membranes in the nose, where the virus typically penetrates the body, he said.
Even without effective treatment or a vaccine, the virus can be controlled by identifying infections, finding and isolating exposed people, he said. He asked people to wear masks, wash hands, clean surfaces, and keep their distance.
He said China and some other Asian countries had successfully implemented this strategy, while the United States and other countries had not done enough to "forcefully isolate" everyone who was exposed to the virus.
China, South Korea and Taiwan did the best to contain infections, while the US, Russia and Brazil did the worst.
Tests on animals with experimental COVID-19 vaccines were able to reduce viral load in organs such as the lungs, although the infections persisted, he said.
For treatment, patients received antibody-rich plasma that was donated by people who had recovered from COVID-19, and drug manufacturers are working to produce refined and concentrated versions of this serum.
Known as hyperimmune globulin, these products are "where the first real treatments will take place," he said, and also predicted success in research into monoclonal antibodies that absorb and neutralize the virus' ability to enter human cells.
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