Scientists in India are testing a multi-purpose vaccine that has proved effective against leprosy and boosts immunity in hosts to see if it can help tackle the coronavirus.
The chief of India's largest public-funded research institution disclosed the information on Friday, reports the NDTV.
"With the approval of the DCGI (Drug Controller General of India), we have begun tests on the MW vaccine that has been successfully used against leprosy," said Dr Shekhar Mande, director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
"Making a vaccine is a lengthy process. The research is going on. We are working on a vaccine that improves the immunity in hosts. We are awaiting two more approvals. Once we have those, we will start trials. We will know the results within the next six weeks," Dr Mande said.
The World Health Organisation has said a specific vaccine for the novel coronavirus that has triggered the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could take at least 12 months or longer.
Several countries including the US and China are working on vaccines to counter the fast-spreading respiratory virus that has affected over 21 lakh people across the world and killed nearly 1.5 lakh.
In India, over 13,000 people have been infected and 437 have died.
Mande said India is working on genome sequencing of the virus that will help trace its origin and spread. It can also help understand if the virus is mutating and developing resistance to drugs being used against it.
"The National Institute of Virology in Pune has done 25 sequencing. We have done 30 sequencing in two of our labs. We do some 500 to 1,000 in the coming two weeks," he said.
"There are around six to seven strains (of coronavirus) in the world. It is too early to say how many strains we have in India. We will find that out as we perform more sequencing," Mande added.