A vaccine used on camels may halt the spread of MERS or Middle East respiratory syndrome caused by the virus known as coronavirus.
The first instances of MERS were tracked to Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, MERS has spread through nearly 30 states and caused the death of more than a third of those who were infected with the coronavirus. This slow epidemic is showing no signs of going away and scientists have been working relentlessly to tackle the camel-borne virus and halt its spread. If left unchecked, the spread could translate in a global pandemic that is hard to track.
While part of the work is dedicated to finding candidate vaccines for human patients, the best option is to also work on strategies to cut the spread of the coronavirus and MERS at its root: in camels. As it is a camel-borne virus,
“the best strategy is trying to suppress circulation of the virus in camels”,
according to virologist Christian Drosten with the University of Bonn, Germany.
As such, a team of scientists with the Animal Health Research Center and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona reported in the Science journal they may have found a candidate vaccine for camels. This vaccine used on camels may halt the spread of MERS, although it remains yet unclear whether the candidate vaccine has long-lasting effects.
According to data gathered so far, coronavirus affects more violently people who already suffer from kidney failure, diabetes or lung disease. These are the high risk categories for developing potentially fatal symptoms of MERS. Coronavirus is transmitted solely from camels, through the animal’s nasal secretions. Some cases have been tracked to human-to-human infection, but they’re a minority.
The candidate vaccine is meant to curb animal to animal infections, as well as animal to human infections by tackling the problem at its root. The candidate vaccine could soon be tested on humans as well to understand its effects.
The symptoms of MERS are quite similar initially to those of a common cold. Particularly because of this disguise, left unchecked MERS will attack organs and lead to death. 35 percent of MERS patients unfortunately died.
For the study, the scientific team used MVA-S candidate vaccine on four camels. Another four were used as controls. MVA-S is a modified vaccine based on the Vaccinia Virus Ankara, expressing the spike protein that can neutralize coronavirus. The four vaccinated camels were injected with the coronavirus once more, as well as the four control camels. As they were vaccinated, the excreted viruses were significantly reduced.
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