MERS Vaccine Ready for Human Trial

MERS Vaccine Ready for Human TrialMERS Vaccine Ready for Human Trial

Researchers have started planning for the first clinical trial to test a candidate vaccine to protect against the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

The news follows a study led by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat München in Germany (LMU) that demonstrated the vaccine’s protective effect in the lab and in mice, medicalnewstoday reported.

Writing in the Journal of Virology, researchers concluded that the vaccine - called MVA-MERS-S - meets important criteria for use in human trials.

The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory illness caused by the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

At first, infection causes flu-like symptoms, but can progress to a fatal respiratory illness.

There is currently no vaccine against MERS-CoV, which kills around 36% of people it infects.

MERS-CoV was first identified in 2012 when it emerged in Saudi Arabia. It has spread to other countries including the US and Germany - where the vaccine has been developed.

The present MERS outbreak in South Korea - where 166 confirmed cases and 12 deaths have been reported - is the largest so far recorded outside the Middle East.

There have been suggestions that mammals play a role in spreading MERS. One study suggested that MERS may have started in bats, and another, that it could be carried by camels.

Two years ago, Gerd Sutter, a virology professor and chair of LMU’s Institute for Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses, and his team reported they had developed a candidate vaccine against MERS-CoV.

As well as researchers from LMU, the vaccine development team includes members from Marburg University in Germany, and the Erasmus Medical Center of Rotterdam in theNetherlands.

In the new study, they describe how subsequent preclinical tests confirm that the vaccine is effective, paving the way for phase 1 trials in humans.

The idea of a vaccine is to prime the immune system to fight a particular disease without causing the subject to actually have the full-blown disease.

In this study, the team based the candidate vaccine on a safety-tested vaccine virus called Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA).

They used MVA as a vehicle to carry an MERS-CoV antigen called the spike glycoprotein (protein S). An antigen is a part of a virus, bacteria, or other unwanted material that causes the immune system to produce antibodies to eliminate it.

Planning for the clinical trial in humans is already under way with the help of a $1.66 million grant from the German Center for Infection Research (DIFZ).