New Covid-19 Vaccine May Protect From Existing, Future Stresses, Scientists Say

A new COVID-19 experimental vaccine has shown promising results in early animal testing, according to researchers who say the inhibitor could provide protection against strains of the new and future coronavirus, and cost around USD 1 per dose . The vaccine developed by researchers, including those from the University of Virginia (UVA) in the US, prevented pigs from becoming ill with a pig model coronavirus, the pig epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV).

PEDV infects pigs, causing diarrhea, vomiting and high fever, and has been a major burden on pig farmers worldwide. The new vaccine method may one day open the door to a universal vaccine for coronaviruses, including coronaviruses that previously threatened pandemics or perhaps even coronaviruses that cause some common colds, he says researchers.

According to the researchers, the vaccine offers several benefits that could overcome major obstacles to global vaccination efforts. They would be easy to store and transport, even in remote areas of the world, and could be produced in mass quantities using existing vaccine manufacturing factories, they said.

“Our new platform offers a new route for the rapid production of vaccines at very low cost that can be manufactured at existing facilities worldwide, which should be particularly useful for pandemic response,” said Steven L. Zeichner of UVA. Described in the journal PNAS, the vaccine production platform includes DNA synthesis that directs the production of a fragment of the virus that can direct the immune system to respond immune against the virus.

Currently killed whole-cell vaccines are widely used to protect against deadly diseases such as cholera and pertussis. Factories in many low- and middle-income countries around the world are making hundreds of millions of doses of those vaccines every year now, for USD 1 per dose or less, ”says Zeichner. “It may be possible to adapt those factories to make this new vaccine. As the technology is very similar, the cost should also be similar, ”he added.

The vaccine takes an unusual approach in that it targets part of the virus’s spike protein, the “viral fusion peptide,” which is essentially universal in coronaviruses. The spike protein helps the virus get into the human cells.

The fusion peptide was not found to differ at all in the number of SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequences obtained by thousands of patients worldwide during the pandemic. The resellers made two vaccines, one designed to protect against COVID-19, and another designed to protect against PEDV.

PEDV and the virus that causes COVID-19 are both coronaviruses, but they are distant relatives. PEDV and SARS-CoV-2, like all coronaviruses, share many of the amino acids that make up the fusion peptide.

The researchers noticed that the vaccine against PEDV and the vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 protect the pigs from PEDV-induced illness. The vaccines did not prevent infection, but they protected the pigs from developing serious symptoms, much like the observations made when primates were tested with COVID-19 candidate vaccines.

The vaccines also boosted the pig’s immune system to respond more vigorously to the infection, researchers said. If the PEDV and COVID-19 vaccines protected the pigs from a PEDV-induced disease and primed the immune system to fight the disease, it is reasonable to think that the COVID-19 vaccine would also protect people from severe COVID-19 disease, they said.

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