Scientists at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health have brought good news in the wake of mounting concerns about the Delta and Delta Plus coronavirus strains. They announced that they have created a hybrid vaccination, nicknamed the ‘super vaccine,’ that should protect against future coronavirus variant infections.
When injected into mice, the vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies against multiple spike protein, which coronaviruses use to hook onto healthy cells, including one linked with B.1.351, which was first detected in South Africa, according to the researchers.
The universal vaccine protected mice not just against Covid-19, but also against other group 2B coronaviruses, according to the researchers. It even prompted the immune system to defend itself against a potentially lethal Covid version. The vaccine was created to defend against the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus as well as a group of coronaviruses that can spread from animals to people.
A postdoctoral researcher at the Gillings School said that their findings point to the possibility of developing more universal coronavirus vaccines to proactively guard against viruses that are known to be at risk of arising in humans.
Sarbecoviruses are also known as “group 2B” coronaviruses, which belong to a large family of coronaviruses. After two coronavirus outbreaks in the last two decades—SARS and Covid-19—virologists are focusing on sarbecoviruses.
Ralph Baric, an epidemiologist at the Gillings School and professor of immunology and microbiology at the UNC School of Medicine reportedly said that when utilized as soon as a novel variety sarbecoviruses is found, the vaccine has the potential to avert outbreaks.
Human trials could begin next year as a result of additional testing. Data from mice infected with SARS-CoV and kindred coronaviruses is included in the study. In mice, the vaccine was found to prevent infection as well as lung damage.
The vaccine was developed in the same way as the modern Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccines, starting with mRNA. Rather than adding the mRNA code for just one virus, the researchers combined mRNA from a number of coronaviruses.
The study was funded by the North Carolina General Assembly and sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health and the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory.