Monkeys develop immunity with vaccine after Covid-19 infection, studies show

Grant Boone
May 23, 2020

Two new studies offer hope for an effective coronavirus vaccine - and for the notion that prior infection also confers immunity.

The group infected nine rhesus macaque monkeys with the coronavirus.

Currently, there are more than 100 candidate COVID-19 vaccines in development worldwide.

Two studies in monkeys published on Wednesday offer some of the first scientific evidence that surviving COVID-19 may result in immunity from reinfection, a positive sign that vaccines under development may succeed, USA researchers said on Wednesday. He directs the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Mobilizing huge resources, China has five potential shots in human testing, while the Trump administration in the US has responded with an effort to get a vaccine across the line called Operation Warp Speed.

Most of the people dosed with the vaccine had immune responses, although their levels of antibodies thought to neutralize the virus were relatively low. The antigen, or foreign substance that induces an immune response, then becomes recognizable by the immune system.

The vaccines were given to25 adult macaques in initial vaccinations and also in follow-up boost immunizations. Numerous same scientists published another paper in Science on monkey responses to vaccines.

The vaccine produced no serious adverse effects at all doses - and was tolerated well among the adults who took it, according to the research.

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The authors wrote that "macaques had high viral loads in the upper and lower respiratory tract, humoral and cellular immune responses, and pathologic evidence of viral pneumonia".

"This is academic research, and we are in contact with some pharmaceutical companies on the possibility of developing a vaccine", Cai said. These studies did not address that issue, but he called it an "important question".

These studies, which have been peer reviewed, do not prove that humans develop immunity or how long it might last, but they are reassuring.

More studies will be needed to determine whether the vaccine can protect against infection in practice.

At the study's start, none of the patients - who had never been infected with coronavirus - had neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"If you are wondering whether it will be possible to create a vaccine against this, you have to have incrementally more confidence today", Brad Loncar, chief executive officer of USA fund manager Loncar Investments and a CanSino investor, said by phone.

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