The race for coronavirus treatment

A global arms race is on for a vaccine or antiviral to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the main things to be aware of.

Scientists are seeing if pre-existing antivirals can be used to treat the illness.

Remdesivir is one of approximately 50 drugs that have been earmarked.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) PROFESSOR JENS LUNDGREN, HEADING EUROPEAN EFFORTS TO TEST THE DRUG REMDESIVIR, SAYING: “… it was fairly easy, if I understand it correctly, to pull it down from the shelf and get it activated.”

It's an experimental drug, initially developed by U.S. company Gilead Sciences.

It was made for Ebola, but was never used and shelved.

Scientists in Denmark are awaiting clearance from authorities for phase one of a trial that could start in June.

SOUNDBITE)(English) PROFESSOR JENS LUNDGREN, HEADING EUROPEAN EFFORTS TO TEST THE DRUG REMDESIVIR, SAYING: “.... then we can scale up to what's called phase two with even more patients - a couple of hundred - if that also looks good and in the fall we can scale it up to a phase three trial.”

Other potential treatments include chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

Existing malaria pills touted by Trump, who said they could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "At my direction, the federal government is working to help obtain large quantities of chloroquine.”

Studies are underway in China, France and the United States.

But health officials caution that no one should be taking these drugs without medical supervision.

What’s the time frame?

(SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND PORTON DOWN, PROFESSOR MILES CARROLL, SAYING: “... it will take some time before a safe, effective vaccine licence is available to the general public."

Scientists warn that vaccine development is a lengthy and complex process.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, it took U.S. scientists 20 months to go from genetic sequence to human trials - by which time, the outbreak was under control.

With this coronavirus, Chinese scientists posted the sequence publicly within a few days - allowing global research teams to get to work right away.

Governments have also been looking to slash red tape.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: ""We have to remove every barrier. There were a lot of barriers that were unnecessary."

But even on a time crunch, most researchers quote a minimum of a year for something to be available for broad use.