This COVID-19 vaccine successfully tested with monkeys

Since the outbreak of a pandemic, it has been observed for the first time that a vaccine in the test has protected an animal (Rhesus Macaques) from the new coronavirus a deadly disease. This vaccine has been made in a quite old-fashioned manner consisting of a chemically inactivated version of the virus. The test has shown no side-effects on monkeys and trial on humans is set to begin on 16 April 2020.

The scientist from Sinovac Biotech, a Beijing-based company tested the COVID-19 vaccine on a total of eight rhesus macaques. Three weeks since given the vaccine the group of monkeys was introduced to the disease. The virus that caused COVID-19 into the monkeys, was injected through monkeys lungs down their trachea, but none of them showed full-blown infection.

The monkeys with the highest dose had given the best response, an examination was conducted after seven days of virus introduction, researchers could not detect any symptoms in the pharynx or lungs of any of the monkeys.

The monkeys with lower dosage had developed a ‘viral blip’ but they also seemed to have controlled the infection, reported the Sinovac team.

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But the things were noteworthy were the lowest dosed animals developed severe pneumonia and viral RNA in several body parts. The senior official said these results gave them a lot of confidence that these vaccines will work in humans.

Florian Krammer – the virologist at Icahn School of medicine, says “ This might be the old school method of developing vaccines but they might work, also that many vaccine producers in lower-middle-income countries could make such vaccines”

Douglas Reed – University of Pittsburgh, The man developing and testing COVID-19 vaccines in monkey studies says animals were too small to yield significant results. His team is also in The process of documenting the fact that concerns about the way Sinovac team grew novel coronavirus that was used to infect the animals, there might have been several changes in the virus structure making it less effective than the ones that infect humans.

One more thing is of concern that monkeys do not develop severe symptoms as compared to humans. The scientists at Sinovac lab says “that it is still too early to define the best animal model for studying this virus”, but it has also to be noted that unvaccinated monkeys showed the similar COVID-19 like symptoms.

The study also points out one of the major concerns where partial protection could be dangerous. Previously when experiments were done with animals regarding vaccine against Coronavirus during the time of SARS and MERS, When the animals were given the pathogens, It was observed the lowering of antibody levels that could lead to bad immune responses causing pathology in their lungs and enhancing their infection. But the Sinovac Team did not report or find any such evidence of lung damage in vaccinated animals who produced relatively low levels of antibodies, “This lessens the concern about vaccine enhancement”

The virus seems to mutate slowly even though the variants are quite a challenge for the vaccine. In one such an experiment the researchers take the antibodies taken from monkeys, rats, and mice  And gave the vaccines with the strains of the virus to the patients in China and other countries all over the world. The antibodies potently “Neutralised” all the strains which are widely scattered on the phylogenic tree.

Here is the tweet from Dr. Mark Slifka

COVID-19 vaccine protects monkeys from new coronavirus
Tweet from Dr. Mark Slifka

This company is highly experienced in vaccine making it had sold in inactivated viral vaccines for mouth disease, foot, and hand, hepatitis A and B, other viral diseases. It could produce nearly hundreds of million doses of the vaccine and might need to partner with other companies if the vaccine proves to be safe and effective in human trials.

The phase 1 clinical trials in Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai, aims to measure and record the safety and immunity of 144 volunteers. The high and low dosage will be given to an equal number of volunteers. This can help in better evaluation whether the vaccine causes any dangerous side-effects. Phase 2 studies are Anticipated to start by mid-May that may have the same design but enroll more than a thousand people.

There is a probability that the company will jump to phase 3 if everything goes well, and the results will be compared to trial in thousands of people. The trial of these vaccines would be more effective in other countries that are hit harder by this virus.

To obtain more effective data after phase 1 and phase 2 trials Sinovac may ask regulatory authorities in China and other countries to give the vaccine to those at high risk of becoming infected such as customs agents and police officers Who are more prone to getting the disease because of their nature of the job. This method was used in 2018 by the Democratic Republic of Congo to successfully curb Ebola.

According to the World Health Organisation, six more vaccines had entered human trials on 23rd April and Around 70 other vaccines were in development. The majority of the vaccines were developed by modern-day technology of genetic engineering and out of which only four depended on old school inactivation technology. But what ultimately matters is whether the vaccine is safe and effective rather than not how it’s made. This is not a situation where one would compromise.

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Reference: Pulitzer Center

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