Macaque monkey trial offers hope for coronavirus vaccine

Macaque monkey trial offers hope for coronavirus vaccine
The vaccineappears hopeful though there is no guarantee this result will translate to people. Source: BBC
3 Min Read

Daily US Times: A vaccine against coronavirus appears hopeful as it has provided protection against Covid-19 in six rhesus macaque monkeys, though there is no guarantee this result will translate to people.

A group of monkeys was exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Researchers observed that the six animals that were vaccinated had less of the virus in their lungs and airways.

The trial took place in the US, involving researchers from the University of Oxford and the US government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). The vaccine appeared to protect the macaque monkeys against developing pneumonia. Rhesus macaques have similar immune systems to humans.

Promisingly, the monkeys also didn’t develop “immune-enhanced disease” – which can be described as a “theoretical risk”. That’s when the vaccine triggers a worse response to a disease.

This response was seen in some early animal vaccine trials against SARS, and proved a stumbling block in developing a vaccine for that disease.

The study hasn’t yet been formally published or reviewed by other scientists, but Prof Stephen Evans at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, described it as “very encouraging” and “high quality”.

Meanwhile, in the UK, trials on more than 1,000 human volunteers are currently underway through the University of Oxford.

Globally, there are more than 100 experimental coronavirus vaccines being developed, but so far no concrete success is being heard.

A visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, Dr Penny Ward, said it was “helpful” to see that the vaccine didn’t cause a worse disease response in these macaque monkeys and that they didn’t develop pneumonia after being vaccinated.

The vaccine is based on a small part of the virus’s distinctive “spike”. The idea is that by getting the body to recognise a unique part of the virus, when it is exposed to the whole thing it will know how to react, and produce the right antibodies to fight it off.

Meanwhile, in the US, the worst affected country has seen a record drop in retail sales. According to government data, retail sales in the US slumped by 16.4% in April- the biggest drop since records began in 1992.

The digit is nearly double as it reported in March, 8.3%. This happens as the direct impact of coronaviorus lockdown as demand for goods drying up.

Companies like JCrew have filed for bankruptcy protection as a result of this slowdown. Other major retailers, such as JC Penney, are expected to follow the suit.

The sharp drop shows how hard the coronavirus pandemic is hitting the consumer spending. Many economists expect consumer spending to pick up in May as lockdowns ease around the country.