Synthetic MERS vaccine fully protects monkeys

New York, Aug 21 (IANS) An experimental synthetic vaccine given six weeks before exposure to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus fully protects rhesus macaques from disease, say researchers, including one of Indian origin.

The vaccine also generated potentially protective antibodies in blood drawn from camels, the purported source of MERS transmission in the Middle East, showing that this vaccine could be deployed to break this link in the MERS transmission cycle.

“This simple synthetic vaccine has the potential to overcome important production and deployment limitations, and what is more, the vaccine is non-live, so does not pose a risk of spreading to unintended individuals,” said study first author Karuppiah Muthumani, research assistant professor at Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania in the US.

MERS is caused by a novel coronavirus. Since its identification in 2012, MERS has been linked to over 1,300 infections and close to 400 deaths. It has occurred in the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, and in the U.S.

The recent 2015 outbreak in South Korea was of great concern as the infection spread from a single patient to infect more than 181 people, resulting in hospital closings, severe economic impact, and more than 30 deaths.

gThe significant recent increase in MERS cases, coupled with the lack of effective antiviral therapies or vaccines to treat or prevent this infection, have raised significant concern,” David Weiner professor at Perelman School of Medicine noted.

“Accordingly the development of a vaccine for MERS remains a high priorit,” Weiner said.

This new vaccine could decrease person-to-person spread of infection in the event of an outbreak and help to protect health care workers or exposed individuals, the researcchers said.

The findings were detailed in the journal Science Translational Medicine (STM).

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