Monkeys develop virus immunity after infection, vaccine

Grant Boone
May 21, 2020

The world is now focusing on the search for a vaccine against COVID-19 to end the devastation it causes.

Researchers from Harvard University's Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts conducted experiments on rhesus macaque monkeys. Both studies were published today in the journal Science. "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".

The second study, involving numerous same researchers and led by Jingyou Yu, involved vaccinating 35 adult macaques with DNA vaccine candidates created to generate protective antibodies.

All of the macaques were infected with the new coronavirus six weeks after vaccination, and those that had received the real vaccines produced levels of antibodies in their blood that were high enough to neutralize the virus within two weeks.

This trains the immune system to recognize the spike proteins and protect the body if someone is infected with coronavirus. In follow-up tests, the monkeys that were vaccinated with the coronavirus showed "dramatically lower viral loads" compared with the control group.

Several analysis groups have launched papers - a lot of them not reviewed by different scientists - suggesting that a vaccine towards the virus could be efficient in animals.

A pair of studies in macaques, which share 93 percent of their DNA with humans, suggests that exposure to the disease or administration of a vaccine can confer protective immunity.

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More than a month later, the creatures were exposed to the virus a second time.

"Further research will be needed to address the important questions about the length of protection", said Barouch, "as well as the optimal vaccine platforms for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for humans". All recovered and developed antibodies.

They were then exposed to the virus alongside 10 control animals. According to the researchers, including Indian-origin scientist Abhishek Chandrashekar from Harvard Medical School in the United States, one of the questions which remain unanswered is whether infection with SARS-CoV-2 results in protective immunity against re-exposure to the virus.

And, in the other report, the monkeys developed immunity against the virus after receiving experimental vaccines.

When asked if he was optimistic that human trials would yield similar results, Barouch said "while data from humans will require rigorous clinical trials, these data in an animal model increases our optimism that the development of a vaccine for humans will be possible". This is a step in the right direction for Covid-19 vaccine development.

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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