Experimental COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective in monkeys
Experimental COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective in monkeys
New studies show monkeys infected with COVID-19 develop immunity, a positive sign for vaccines
22 May, 2020, 23:09
Nine Rhesus Macaque monkeys - similar to this one - were given a trial coronavirus vaccine in a U.S. study that found they were ultimately immunised or resisted re-infection.
Antibody production seen in the patients is a good sign that the vaccine may protect them from infection, but it's too soon to say for sure.
"The trial demonstrates that a single dose of the new adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) vaccine produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days, making it a potential candidate for further investigation", said Professor Wei Chen from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in Beijing, China, who is responsible for the study.
"The global COVID-19 pandemic has made the development of a vaccine a top biomedical priority, but very little is now known about protective immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus", said Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC, and senior author on both studies.
These studies, which have been peer reviewed, do not prove that humans develop immunity or how long it might last, but they are reassuring.
CanSino Biologic, a Chinese vaccine company, is conducting phase two human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the company has also received approval from Canada's Department of Health to carry out additional human trials in the country. More than a month after the initial infection, the team re-exposed the rhesus macaques to the virus.
Most of the people dosed with the vaccine had immune responses, although their levels of antibodies thought to neutralize the virus were relatively low.
They then exposed these monkeys and 10 control animals to SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the novel coronavirus.
"Upon second exposure, the animals demonstrated near-complete protection against the virus", researchers said.
More than 100 vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2 are in development, with about 12 in human testing created to mainly evaluate safety. Further trials are needed to determine whether the vaccine effectively protects against infection - rather than just triggers an immune response to the virus.
Vaccinated animals developed humoral and cellular immune responses, including neutralizing antibody titers comparable to those found in convalescent humans and macaques infected with SARS-CoV-2. "These data suggest that animals develop natural protective immunity against the virus and the disease that it causes". Follow-up testing revealed dramatically lower viral loads in vaccinated animals compared to the control group.
In another study, Barouch and his colleagues tested 25 monkeys with six prototype vaccines to see if antibodies produced in response were protective.
"Our findings increase optimism that the development of COVID-19 vaccines will be possible", said Barouch.
Two new studies offer hope for an effective coronavirus vaccine - and for the notion that prior infection also confers immunity.
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