The race to develop a vaccine against each coronavirus is underway

October 21, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed most of the U.S. population to obtain Covid vaccine boosters-the demand for this vaccine was so great that 10 million people got it in some way before it was approved, hoping to feel safer . Two days later, the British government made things less safe: it announced the emergence of Delta-plus, a new variant that already accounts for 6% of the country’s cases and is more infectious than the highly transmissible delta.

These back-to-back events captured the disgusting pandemic roller coaster: The situation is improving. No, they are not. Yes, they are.No they are really no. The endless repetition is exhausting. It led to a loose coalition of scientists asking the question: What if we could stop the roller coaster…?

In a large number of papers and preprints published in the past six months, these research teams have proposed a “universal coronavirus vaccine” that can prevent the entire virus family.This means the current version of SARS-CoV-2, any variants that may escape the protection of existing vaccines, and any future strains of coronavirus may appear Cause a new epidemic.

This is a complex project, and no team can get close to the goal. Universal vaccines for other recurrent and genetically variant diseases (especially influenza) have been unsuccessful for many years. But researchers believe that research on coronaviruses may be easier to achieve, not only because the genetic complexity of this virus is lower than that of the flu-causing virus, but also because the threat of another coronavirus pandemic is disturbingly real.

After all, SARS-CoV-2 is the third coronavirus that causes human diseases within 20 years after SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012. 20th Century, this 19th centuryAnd possibly Across the millennium. There may be thousands more yet to be determined Coronavirus latency Among bats, wild animals, and domestic animals, be prepared to jump between species and trigger opportunities for destruction.

“This is not the first coronavirus pandemic we have experienced, and it will not be the last, because in less than 20 years, we have encountered three coronaviruses with pandemic potential,” viral immunologist Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster said. An assistant professor at Northwestern University and senior author of multiple papers, outlined the method of universal vaccines. “We want to prepare for the next pandemic, and the way to do this is to be prepared.”

These research teams are not the only ones who feel the urgency. In March, the non-profit organization Epidemic Preparedness Innovation Alliance (a public-private partnership that uses government and charitable funds for valuable projects) announced its commitment Up to 200 million U.S. dollars Support research on universal coronavirus vaccines.

But here comes the challenge: In order to make a vaccine against multiple types, strains, or virus variants, researchers must find some characteristics that they can use. all There is one thing in common, our immune system will respond to this. Then they must incorporate this feature into the vaccine. For example, in the case of influenza, every new virus strain undergoes a slight change in a characteristic called hemagglutinin, which is a hammer-shaped protein on the surface of the virus that binds to receptors on lung cells. Because each hemagglutinin is different–researchers actually subdivided influenza viruses based on the degree of difference in these proteins–research on universal influenza vaccines has been focused on trying to divert the immune system’s attention from protein The variable head shifts to the handle-shaped, less variable stem.

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