A prototype vaccine has protected monkeys from the virus, researches have found.
A prototype vaccine has protected monkeys from the virus, researchers reported on Wednesday, a finding that offers new hope for effective human vaccines.
Scientists are already testing virus vaccines in people, but the initial trials are designed to determine safety, not how well a vaccine works. The research published Wednesday offers insight into what a vaccine must do to be effective and how to measure that.
“To me, this is convincing that a vaccine is possible,” said Dr. Nelson Michael, the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Scientists are engaged in a worldwide scramble to create a vaccine against the new virus. Over a hundred research projects have been launched; early safety trials in humans have been started or completed in nine of them.
Next to come are larger trials to determine whether these candidate vaccines are not just safe, but effective. But those results won’t arrive for months.
In the meantime, Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and his colleagues have started a series of experiments on monkeys to get a broader look at how coronaviruses affect monkeys — and whether vaccines could fight them. Their report was published in Science.
In one series of experiments, each monkey received pieces of DNA, which their cells turned into viral proteins designed to train the immune system to recognize the virus.
Most coronavirus vaccines are intended to coax the immune system to make antibodies that latch onto the spike protein and destroy the virus. Dr. Barouch and his colleagues tried out six variations.
Some of the vaccines provided only partial protection, but other vaccines worked better. The one that worked best trained the immune system to recognize and attack the entire spike protein of the coronavirus. In eight monkeys, the researchers couldn’t detect the virus at all.
“I think that overall this will be seen as very good news for the vaccine effort,” said Dr. Barouch. “This increases our optimism that a vaccine for Covid-19 will be possible.”