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US firm starts human testing of vaccine to prevent coronavirus

A United States-based biotech firm Moderna has sent an experimental coronavirus vaccine to US government researchers just six weeks after it started working on the immunisation.

According to a CNBC report, pharmaceutical companies and health officials are working at a breakneck pace to identify treatment or a vaccine to help fight the virus.

A clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the antiviral drug Remdesivir in adults diagnosed with coronavirus started at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said.

Participants in the US treatment group will receive 200 milligrams of Remdesivir intravenously when they are enrolled in the study.

Hospitalised

They will receive another 100 milligrams while they are hospitalised for up to 10 days in total. A placebo group will receive a solution that resembles Remdesivir but contains only inactive ingredients, the NIH said.

The virus has so far infected more than 80,000 people. But even with an expedited approval process, a vaccine would not be available for use for at least a year or 18 months, said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The coronavirus is spreading in the Middle East, Europe and other parts of the world, while parts of China begin to lower their emergency response level as the number of new cases reported there continues to slow.

More deaths have been reported in Iran and Italy, while South Korea on Wednesday said an 11th person had died of the disease there.

So far, there is no cure or vaccine for the virus, which has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700 worldwide in the past few months.