In a recent study published in Nature, researchers found a potential new vaccine is effective in protecting against a variety of coronavirus infections, including SARS-CoV-2 as well as the original SARS-CoV-1 and related bat coronaviruses.
The new vaccine, called a pan-coronavirus vaccine, triggers neutralizing antibodies via a nanoparticle.
The nanoparticle is composed of the coronavirus part that allows it to bind to the body’s cell receptors and is formulated with a chemical booster called an adjuvant. Success in primates is highly relevant to humans.
The study is from the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. One author is Barton F. Haynes, M.D.
Previously, the team had found a person who had been infected with SARS developed antibodies capable of neutralizing multiple coronaviruses, suggesting that a pan-coronavirus might be possible.
The Achilles heel for the coronaviruses is their receptor-binding domain, located on the spike that links the viruses to receptors in human cells. While this binding site enables it to enter the body and cause infection, it can also be targeted by antibodies.
The research team identified one particular receptor-binding domain site that is present on SARS-CoV-2, its circulating variants and SARS-related bat viruses that make them highly vulnerable to cross-neutralizing antibodies.
They then designed a nanoparticle displaying this vulnerable spot. The nanoparticle is combined with a small molecule adjuvant that boosts the body’s immune response.
In tests of its effect on monkeys, the nanoparticle vaccine blocked COVID-19 infection by 100%.
The new vaccine also elicited significantly higher neutralizing levels in the animals than current vaccine platforms or natural infection in humans.
The team says this approach not only provided protection against SARS-CoV-2, but the antibodies induced by the vaccine also neutralized variants of concern that originated in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.
And the induced antibodies reacted with quite a large panel of coronaviruses.
There have been three coronavirus epidemics in the past 20 years, so there is a need to develop effective vaccines that can target these pathogens prior to the next pandemic.
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