A new study at the University of Iowa and the University of Georgia has shown that a vaccine could fully protect mice against a lethal dose of MERS, which is similar to the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus.
The vaccine uses a harmless virus to deliver a MERS coronavirus protein into cells which in turn generates an immune response. The scientists hope that it could help the attempts for developing vaccines against other coronaviruses diseases.
The research was led by Paul McCray, MD, at the UI Carver College of Medicine, and Biao He, Ph.D., at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. They tested a MERS vaccine candidate in mice engineered to be susceptible to the MERS coronavirus. All the vaccinated mice survived a lethal dose of the MERS coronavirus.
“Our new study indicates that PIV5 may be a useful vaccine platform for emerging coronavirus diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” says McCray, UI professor of pediatrics. “Using the same strategy, vaccine candidates based on PIV5 expressing the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 have been generated. We are planning more studies in animals to test the ability of PIV5-based vaccines in preventing disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.”
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and COVID-19 are both caused by coronaviruses. MERS is deadlier and is fatal in about one third of known cases, but there have been only 2,494 cases since 2012, when the virus first emerged.
It was also found that a relatively low dose of the vaccine given to the mice intranasally (inhaled through the nose) was sufficient to fully protect all the treated mice from a lethal dose of MERS coronavirus.