Researchers from Taiwan and the USA may have found a vaccine for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – a deadly emerging disease with a mortality rate of over 34 percent.
The vaccine mimics the characteristics of the virus
Hu Che-Ming, Academica Sinica
Focus Taiwan reports that scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), National Taiwan University (NTU) and Academia Sinica – Taiwan’s national academy – have developed a novel nanoparticle vaccine that mimics the morphology of MERS-CoV and has been found to protect against the infectious pathogen.
By using nanotechnology, the cross-cultural team created capsid-like polymeric nanoshells before coating them with a protein corona to mimic the coronavirus. These nanoparticles were then loaded with a potent immunologic stimulant to make the vaccine.
In a statement, Academica Sinica said that, “In a mouse model, the vaccine stimulated a high and durable level of anti-MERS-CoV antibodies that can neutralize MERS-CoV antigens.”
“In addition, the vaccine also triggered an elevated level of antigen-specific T cells, which is critical for MERS-CoV protection.”
Academic Sinica assistant research fellow, Hu Che-Ming – credited as the inventor of the capsid-like polymeric nanoshell – noted that the vaccine tricks the body into believing that it is being attacked. The body’s immune reactions are thereby stimulated in advance, better preparing it to defend itself when the real virus attacks. “The vaccine mimics the characteristics of the virus,” said Hu.
The next stage in the development of this vaccine, which so far has only been tested on mice, will be to assess its efficacy in non-human primates before beginning clinical testing.
There is currently no available vaccine for MERS, for which there have been over 2,000 confirmed cases so far across 27 countries since the first identified case in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.
MERS, which is transmitted from camels to humans, has been identified as a priority disease by the World Health Organization, leading Academica Sinica to declare that there is an urgent need for new vaccine technology against the pathogen.