Beijing: China, which is battling the novel coronavirus for the past three months, has completed the clinical research of Favipiravir - an antiviral drug that has shown good clinical efficacy against COVID-19, a top Chinese official said on Tuesday.
Favipiravir, the influenza drug which was approved for clinical use in Japan in 2014, has shown no obvious adverse reactions in the clinical trial, Zhang Xinmin, director of the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development, told the media.
The announcement by Zhang, whose centre is attached to the Ministry of Science and Technology, is regarded as significant as there is no standardised effective cure yet to treat the COVID-19 patients, though China and a number of other countries used drugs to treat HIV as well as Ebola virus patients.
The coronavirus has shown signs of gradually abating in China including in the epicentre Wuhan where only one confirmed case was reported on Monday. The virus was first reported in Wuhan in December last year.
China's National Health Commission (NHC) said on Tuesday that 21 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection and 13 deaths were reported on the Chinese mainland on Monday. Of the deaths, 12 were in worst-hit Hubei province and its capital Wuhan one in Shaanxi province, it said.
The overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 80,881 by the end of Monday. This includes 3,226 people who died of the disease, 8,976 patients who were still being treated, 68,679 others discharged after recovery, the NHC said.
Zhang said more than 80 patients have participated in the clinical trial in The Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province, including 35 patients taking Favipiravir and 45 patients on a control group.
Results showed that patients receiving Favipiravir treatment turned negative for the virus in a shorter time compared with patients in the control group, he said.
A multi-centred randomised clinical study led by the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University also suggested that the therapeutic effect of Favipiravir is much better than that of the control group, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Favipiravir has been recommended to medical treatment teams and should be included in the diagnosis and treatment plan for COVID-19 as soon as possible, Zhang said.
A Chinese pharmaceutical company has been approved by the National Medical Products Administration to mass-produce the drug and ensure stable supply, Zhang added.
China is also speeding up the process to finalise vaccines to counter COVID-19 amid reports that Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle and Washington began a clinical trial of an investigational vaccine for coronavirus.
Some vaccines for the coronavirus are expected to enter clinical trials as soon as possible in China, Wang Junzhi, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the media.
Chinese scientists have been racing to develop COVID-19 vaccines by five approaches, namely inactivated vaccines, genetic engineering subunit vaccines, adenovirus vector vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines, and vaccines using attenuated influenza virus as vectors, Wang said.
So far, most teams are expected to complete preclinical research in April and some are moving forward faster, Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.
Some research team has been enrolling volunteers and applied for clinical trials with the National Medical Products Administration, he added.
About the human trials which began in the US, Wang said that the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines in China, not slower than foreign counterparts, has been carried out in a scientific, standardized and orderly way.
Lei Chaozi, an official with the Ministry of Education, said that the flu viral vector-based vaccine is currently under animal tests for safety and efficacy tests and scheduled to apply for the clinical trial by the end of April.
The ministry has called on universities and colleges with advantages, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Xiamen University, as well as scientific research institutions and related enterprises to speed up research on the COVID-19 vaccine since the traditional Chinese New Year, Lei said.
He added that vaccine research conducted by Chinese universities and colleges has been pushed forward following regulations and laws as expected.
On Monday, an official from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said that a vaccine developed in Shanghai is expected to enter clinical trials by mid-April.