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China OKs human trials of SARS vaccine

China has approved human trials of an experimental SARS vaccine, and 30 people have volunteered, state media reported.
/ Source: The Associated Press

China has approved human trials of an experimental SARS vaccine, and 30 people have volunteered, state media reported Monday.

Researchers cautioned that the government’s approval of what it called the first phase of human trials doesn’t mean the vaccine can be produced for widespread use anytime soon, China Central Television said.

“There is still a lot of research work that needs to be done before this medicine can be effectively used,” said Zheng Xiaoyu, director of the State Food and Drug Administration.

Meanwhile, a 57-year-old doctor hospitalized for 10 months with SARS was finally discharged, leaving Hong Kong with no patients suffering from the respiratory disease, officials said Tuesday.

Dr. Joseph Chung, was in intensive care for four months — relying a respirator part of the time — and his weight dropped from 160 pounds to less than 110 pounds, the South China Morning Post reported.

Hong Kong remains on alert, however, following the emergence of three new SARS cases in mainland China since December.

Trials begin this month
China had said it planned to inject volunteers this month with a vaccine made from the dead virus that scientists say causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. It said tests on animals have shown it to be effective.

The first phase of tests will be to find out if the vaccine is safe for humans, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Development of the Chinese vaccine began in April, state media have reported.

The World Health Organization has urged China to share the results of its tests with scientists in other countries to foster cooperation and verifiable adherence to safety precautions.

In the meantime, WHO says that the best way to fight SARS is through proven methods of surveillance, early diagnosis, hospital quarantines and international reporting.

SARS, which scientists say is caused by a coronavirus, first emerged in southern China in late 2002. It killed 774 people worldwide last year and sickened more than 8,000 before subsiding in July. In China, 349 people died.

Since December, China has reported three new cases of SARS — two patients who have recovered and another who reportedly is hospitalized in stable condition.