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Chinese volunteers test SARS vaccine

Thursday, May 27, 2004

BEIJING -- Four Chinese volunteers taking part in the world's first human test of a SARS vaccine were in good condition Wednesday, four days after being inoculated, the government said.

The test is part of aggressive Chinese research aimed at preventing a new outbreak of the disease that killed 774 people worldwide last year.

The three men and one woman, all university students, were injected with the vaccine Saturday at a Beijing hospital.

The subjects "are in good condition," Xinhua said. It said no adverse reactions were observed during three days of blood tests and temperature checks.

The volunteers were released from the hospital but will be monitored for about seven months, state television reported. After that, researchers will decide whether to proceed with the next stage of testing. It didn't say what that would involve.

China says it is the first country to reach the stage of testing a SARS vaccine on humans.

Its vaccine, developed by the government and a company affiliated with the Peking University, was reportedly made using a dead sample of the SARS virus. There was no indication whether volunteers might be exposed to the live virus as part of testing.

Scientists have picked 36 volunteers between the ages of 21 and 40 to test the vaccine, Xinhua said. It wasn't clear when the additional test subjects would be inoculated.

A SARS vaccine has been successfully tested on animals in the United States. But the World Health Organization and other experts say a safe, effective human vaccine is at least a year or two away.

SARS first emerged in China's southern province of Guangdong in late 2002. It sickened more than 8,000 people worldwide before abating in July 2003.

China has suffered two outbreaks since then -- one in December in Guangdong and another last month in Beijing.

The Beijing cases were linked to a government disease research laboratory that handled the virus. Two lab workers were infected and the mother of one died.

On Friday, a 49-year-old physician, the last patient in China's latest SARS outbreak, was declared recovered and discharged from a Beijing hospital.


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