Zeroing in on the structure of a viral protein that Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) uses to enter and infect cells, a group of investigators at the NIH say they have developed a new vaccine that has proven promising in animal studies.
The researchers focused carefully on the spike (S) glycoprotein, developing a two-step process that involved a priming injection and a booster followup several weeks later. They then successfully tested vaccines in mice and took the most promising into a second-stage study involving rhesus monkeys.
Not only did the mice produce the desired neutralizing antibodies, the rhesus monkeys--which weren't directly infected--were also protected from the severe lung damage caused by MERS. And now the goal is to develop a new vaccine for human use that can be tested in clinical trials.
MERS first appeared about three years ago and periodically spurs fresh bouts of concern as new cases popped up in Saudi Arabia and South Korea. There have been more than 180 confirmed infections with some 36 deaths in South Korea, according to the NIH. Close to 500 people have been killed by MERS, most in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this week South Korea announced that the MERS outbreak was over. The country ultimately quarantined some 17,000 people after a traveler from the Middle East introduced MERS, causing severe economic fallout along with the deaths.
- here's the release