Scientists have developed a universal vaccine that protected mice not just against COVID-19 but also other coronaviruses.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) in the US claim that the new vaccine triggers the immune system to fight off a dangerous variant.
“While no one knows which virus may cause the next outbreak, noted that coronaviruses remain a threat after causing the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the global COVID-19 pandemic”, they add.
The study, published in the journal Science, looked at a second-generation vaccine: one that targets sarbecoviruses.
To prevent a future coronavirus pandemic, the team designed the vaccine to provide protection from the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and a group of coronaviruses known to make the jump from animals to humans.
The team’s approach started with mRNA preventive, which is similar to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines used today
However, instead of including the mRNA code for only one virus, they welded together mRNA from multiple coronaviruses. When given to mice, the hybrid vaccine effectively generated neutralising antibodies against multiple spike proteins.
The vaccine has the potential to prevent outbreaks when used as a new variant is detected,” said study lead author Ralph Baric, an epidemiologist at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. The research includes data from mice infected with SARS-CoV and related coronaviruses and the vaccine prevented infection and lung damage in mice.
Additional testing could lead to human clinical trials next year, the researchers said. “Our findings look bright for the future because they suggest we can design more universal pan coronavirus vaccines to proactively guard against viruses we know are at risk for emerging in humans,” said another lead author David Martinez, a postdoctoral researcher at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.