BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 19 (UPI) — Tests of an experimental vaccine for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS, were successful at protecting rhesus macaques and camels from contracting the disease.
MERS has made at least 1,400 people sick and killed more than 500 since first being discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Most cases of the disease have been in the Middle East and Asia. MERS is a viral respiratory virus that causes fever and coughing. It is spread through water vapor in the air from coughing or sneezing sick people.
Researchers used previous research on a vaccine for the severe acute respiratory syndrome, a coronavirus that is similar to MERS which killed 700 people and made 8,000 sick in 2003, according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health.
Because MERS mutates, researchers compared all the known protein sequences of the virus to create an “S spike protein” that would prevent infection by the virus. The vaccine was given over the course of six weeks before immunity was shown in the animals. Researchers said they would next be investigating ways of shortening the inoculation period and work toward a usable vaccine for both humans and camels.
The study on the vaccine is published in Science Translational Medicine.