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Synthetic DNA vaccine shows promise against MERS

A novel synthetic DNA vaccine has been shown to induce protective immunity against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in animal species.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, published the results in Science Translational Medicine (STM) this week.

The vaccine was able to prevent MERS disease in the monkeys and offered benefit to 100% of the animals in this study in terms of minimising symptoms, lead author David Weiner said.

What’s perhaps more important is that the vaccine induced antibodies that are linked with protection in camels, a species that is thought to be a major source of transmission to humans in the Middle East.

MERS is caused by an emerging human coronavirus, which is distinct from the SARS coronavirus. Since its identification in 2012, MERS has been linked to over 1,300 infections and nearly 400 deaths. It has occurred in the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, and in the U.S.

In the study, the experimental, preventive vaccine was given six weeks before exposure to the MERS virus.

“The significant recent increase in MERS cases, coupled with the lack of effective antiviral therapies or vaccines to treat or prevent this infection, have raised significant concern,” Weiner said. “Accordingly the development of a vaccine for MERS remains a high priority.”

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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