Dr Dan Barouch, a researcher at the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston said this is extremely good news!
The Beijing Institute of Biotechnology's vaccine is just one of dozens being studied around the world as public health authorities desperately search for a cure for the pandemic, which has already killed more than 94,000 people in the U.S. alone.
Surviving Covid-19 or receiving preliminary vaccines gives monkeys protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
The levels of antibodies, it said, were similar to those seen in humans recovering from the virus, providing hope that an effective human vaccine can be developed.
In all cases, as the production of immune system antibodies rose, viral load declined. These data suggest natural protective immunity against COVID-19 in this model.
"In these two studies, we demonstrate in rhesus macaques that prototype vaccines protected against SARS-CoV-2 infection and that SARS-CoV-2 infection protected against re-exposure", Barouch said. Following initial viral clearance, they explained, animals were rechallenged with SARS-CoV-2 and "showed 5 log10 reductions in median viral loads in bronchoalveolar lavage and nasal mucosa compared with primary infection".
All nine animals showed little to no symptoms after re-challenge and exhibited immune responses that protected against the second infection (given at the same doses as the first).
At least 100 vaccines against COVID-19 are now in development, with at least eight starting clinical trials, the authors noted, among them Moderna's mRNA vaccine, and the University of Oxford's non-replicating chimpanzee adenovirus-vectored vaccine, which was recently shown to be protective in a small preclinical trial. "Rigorous clinical studies will be required to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 infection effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 re-exposure in humans", they said. The team developed six DNA vaccines that expressed various forms of SARS-CoV-2's famous "spike", which it uses to invade cells and spread them between 25 macaques, re-vaccinating three weeks later.
Afterwards, they were again exposed to the virus but they did not get sick.
The study showed eight monkeys had higher levels of antibodies after being exposed to the vaccine tests and then showed no detectable trace of the coronavirus, while the rest of the animals showed very low levels of it.
"Our findings increase optimism that the development of COVID-19 vaccines will be possible", said Barouch. The problem was more common among subjects at the older end of the age range, among 45 to 60 year olds - a finding that raises questions about how well the vaccine would work in one of the demographic groups that most needs protection from this infection, older adults.
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