Health

Australia develops immunity test and begins pre-clinical vaccine trials

Australia is leading global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Australia has made major strides this week in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers from Melbourne’s Monash University and Victoria’s Alfred Health announced Monday they had produced a test that can tell whether individuals are immune to coronavirus and whether or not they are currently infectious despite recovering or showing no symptoms.

The test can also tell whether someone is likely to develop the disease and the severity of the virus should they be infected.

The breakthrough test — which involves a patient blood sample — is similar to that of influenza or allergy testing, and works by examining the immune system cells that create antibodies to fight off viruses.

"It is important that we now move from needing a test that simply tells whether someone is infected — which is the priority now — to needing a test that can determine who is infectious, who is immune, who is going to get a serious case of the disease and who will only develop a mild case of upper airway infection," said lead researcher Associate Professor Menno van Zelm, according to SBS.

Cell samples will arrive next week from across Melbourne and hard-hit coronavirus hubs in Italy, China and New York.

The test is anticipated to be ready for widespread use in the coming months.

Last week, Australia made another key breakthrough.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Csiro), Australia’s national science agency, began the initial stage of pre-clinical testing for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The first phase of testing — which will take around three months — will examine the ideal method of vaccine administration, whether that be an injection or nasal spray.

A human trial of one of the two vaccine candidates currently being tested is expected to begin as soon as late April or early May.

"We're still sticking to the optimistic 18 months for delivery of a vaccine to the general consumers," Csiro director of health Rob Grenfell told Reuters, before adding that the pace the scientists were working at was “remarkable.”

Csiro joins facilities like Moderna Inc and companies like Johnson & Johnson in leading coronavirus vaccine research.

Globally, over 1 million people have been infected with COVID-19.

As of April 6, 63,000 people have died from coronavirus complications, including 34 in Australia.

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