You are here

Animal research, Health

10 - 08 - 2015

MERS: a vaccine protects monkeys and mice

Identified in 2012, the coronavirus responsible for the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) is an emerging virus of animal origin (see video below). An new experimental vaccine against the MERS-CoV was effective in mice and monkeys. 



The MERS coronavirus: an emerging virus


Identified in Saudi Arabia ad Quatar in 2012, the coronavirus responsible for the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) is part of the so-called emerging viruses, just like the avian flu H5N1, Ebola or the coronavirus that causes the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).


What is so special about these “newcomers”? Originally, these viruses are confined to animal reservoirs, such as wild birds in the case of bird flu. They then “cross the species barrier to infect humans,” according to the epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet. 


Transmission happens mainly from animals to humans


Researchers don’t quite understand the methods of transmission of the MERS-CoV. However, similar viruses exist in bats. Bats could be the natural reservoir, but the source of the human inoculation would be camels.


According to the WHO, “the virus does not seem to spread easily from one person to another, unless there is close contact between the infected individuals,” which reduces the risk of a large-scale outbreak. 


An effective vaccine in monkeys and mice


According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, mice immunized against the MERS-CoV produced antibodies capable of neutralizing the coronavirus. Similarly, twelve macaques that received the experimental vaccine were protected against the severe lung infection.


Researchers at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are now working on a vaccine for humans.


For more information : read the FAQs on the MERS-CoV