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Human Tests For SARS Vaccine Set

The National Institutes of Health is launching a human trial to test the safety of an experimental vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Ever since 774 people died in the 2002 SARS outbreak, researchers have been looking for a vaccine to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease, reports CBS News Correspondent Barry Bagnato.

It was only brought under control by quarantine, patient isolation and travel restrictions.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Monday it will test the vaccine in 10 volunteers, doing periodic follow-up exams for 32 weeks. The American version of the vaccine uses DNA coding to teach the body how to react to the SARS virus.

The vaccine has worked well in animals and this trial is primarily intended to determine if it is safe in people and to see if the volunteers produce antibodies, the institute said.

Unlike most vaccines, which use either a weakened or killed virus to spur the body to produce an immune reaction, this vaccine uses a small piece of DNA that encodes a viral protein. The researchers expect the DNA will direct human cells to produce proteins very similar to the SARS protein, and the immune system should recognize these proteins as foreign and then mount a defense against them.

While developing new vaccines can take decades, this trial gets under way less than two years after the disease was first recognized.

The NIAID vaccine is the second to begin being tested against SARS. Chinese researchers began human testing of a vaccine in May using an inactivated SARS virus.