MERS Virus Vaccine Being Developed In Hopes Of A MERS Cure

Patrick Frye - Author

May 18 2014, Updated 3:06 p.m. ET

As the MERS virus continues to spread throughout the world, various government agencies and companies are racing to create a MERS vaccine that could provide a cure.

In a related report by The Inquisitr, the WHO warned the MERS virus may be spread by drinking camel urine and says that people should avoid the traditional medicinal practice. The CDC recently confirmed the MERS virus was in the United States in at least three states. The second MERS virus case was in Florida and up to 21 people, including the patient who had just come from Saudi Arabia, were potentially affected by the deadly coronavirus.

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As of Friday, there were more than 571 confirmed cases of the MERS virus, and about a third, or 171 people, have died from contracting the deadly virus. In Saudi Arabia alone there have been many deaths associated with being in contact with camels. As a comparison, the SARS virus, which is also a coronavirus, is estimated to be about a third as deadly when it comes to the mortality rate and SARS infected over 8,200 people and killed 775 during the 2002 and 2003 outbreak.

In the worst case scenario, the CDC fears the third confirmed case in the United States may represent examples of people who are “asymptomatic,” which means to be a carrier of the disease yet not display any common MERS virus symptoms, which includes a fever, cough, and shortness of breath similar to the flu. This would create a Typhoid Mary scenario where seemingly non-sick carriers spread the MER virus through close sustained contact, which is apparently one of the few good limitations this virus has when jumping from human to human.

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The patient in the third case is also thought to have developed antibodies to the MERS virus. Government scientists looking for a MERS vaccine have already “found that two antibodies, called MERS-4 and MERS-27, were able to block cells in a lab dish from becoming infected with the MERS virus. While early, the results hint that these antibodies, especially… used in combination, could be promising candidates for interventions against MERS.” These scientists are currently investigating cases in Saudi Arabia.

The Motley Fool reports that three biotech companies called Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Novavax, and Nanoviricides are looking into developing a MERS vaccine. For example:

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“Inovio announced that preclinical tests of a vaccine for MERS showed ‘robust and durable’ immune responses in mice. Like most of Inovio’s other pipeline candidates, the experimental MERS vaccine was constructed from synthetic DNA which is thought to be potentially safer than traditional vaccines. Synthetic DNA vaccines replicate the virus’ DNA footprint to elicit an immune response, but they are not alive, cannot replicate, and cannot spread within host cells. Inovio’s MERS vaccine reportedly induced levels of antibodies and T cells — both crucial in clearing infections caused by the virus — to rise in mice.”

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Unfortunately, none of these companies have reached a point where a MERS cure is within reach soon. Only two out of three have reached animal trials, and the road to developing a MERS vaccine for humans still has a long road ahead.


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