Anti-MERS trial vaccine raises hopes

Particles of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colorized transmission electron micrograph from the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). (Reuters)

The University of Maryland, in partnership with the US-based Novavax pharmaceutical company, has developed a vaccine that appears to effectively fight the MERS coronavirus in mice.

Meanwhile, four deaths and six new cases of MERS were reported on Monday, bringing the death toll to 173 since September 2012.

The fatalities were reported in Jeddah, Makkah, Riyadh and Tabuk and were from among cases that had been previously diagnosed.

Newly diagnosed patients, meanwhile, are all men from Riyadh, Jeddah, Madinah and Taif.
The announcement of the “investigational vaccine” was published in Vaccine magazine on April 13 this year.

Novavax has claimed that the vaccine is also a “candidate” against the SARS coronavirus, which killed 775 people and infected 8,000 in 2003.

Stanley C. Erck, president and chief executive officer of Novavax, said the company is communicating with various parties, including the US government to try the vaccine against the coronavirus.

“But nothing yet materialized with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Erck said that more funding is needed for research and that there would have to be close cooperation with the health authorities in affected countries.

Matthew Frieman, assistant professor and supervisor of the study at Maryland University, said the vaccine showed effective results by increasing the antibodies resisting the virus in mice.

The statement published on Novavax’s website said that the vaccine would target the S protein that links the virus with the body’s cells. Once the protein is dismantled the process would provide prevention and protection against the virus.

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