Medicine dreams of a universal vaccine that will help against all variants. But it doesn’t have to remain a dream. Researchers are on the right track.
BA.4 and BA.5 are the currently dominant subtypes of the omicron variant of the coronavirus – and research into modified vaccines is in full swing. One of these should apparently be approved already in the autumn. The European Medicines Agency responsible for this, EMA, expects an application for approval from BioNTech/Pfizer in the coming weeks.
New corona vaccine is likely to come in the fall
Universal vaccine – one against all
Let’s hope a new variant doesn’t appear anytime soon. Because even in times of a pandemic, it takes a long time to develop, manufacture and inoculate a new, adapted vaccine. At worst, until the variant it was adapted to is no longer widespread. For this reason, experts are hoping for a universal vaccine. One that works against all past and future CoV variants. This would have to elicit an antibody response in the body that is broad enough to protect against all mutations. Scientists from the USA may now be one step closer to such a vaccine.
The team from the Scripps Research Institute at the University of San Diego has identified an antibody that
– various Sars-CoV-2 variants
– and other Sars viruses are effective.
Like other Covid vaccines and antibody preparations, this antibody attaches to the peak protein of the coronavirus. This protein allows the virus to enter human cells, which is why it is a common target for drugs and vaccines. However, this junction is also changed by the mutations, which means that antibodies specially adapted to it lose their effectiveness as soon as the virus mutates. According to the researchers, the newly discovered antibody binds to a specific point in the spike protein found in many Sars viruses and is therefore less likely to mutate.
In one experiment, the researchers administered the nail protein to a rhesus monkey. This is usually considered very suitable for checking vaccines and their effectiveness, as their immune system is very similar to that of humans. However, their immune system has been found to react differently to that of humans. It has developed a significantly better range of antibodies – including those that attack the designated site on the spike protein. The results were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
New corona vaccine should also help against colds
antibodies in infected people
At the end of July, researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham examined the blood of former corona patients and found, among other things, 17 different antibodies, four of which were able to neutralize the coronavirus, including the beta and omicron variants.
The antibody “1249A8”, which also binds to a fixed site of the nail protein and is therefore able to neutralize different variants, was particularly successful. In initial tests on mice, “1249A8” achieved a neutralizing effect against all variants of Sars-CoV-2, other beta-coronaviruses and some cold viruses. The results can be found in the journal “Plos Pathogene”.
But the newly discovered antibodies may not only play a role for vaccines, the new findings are also relevant for antibodies.
Expert warns – tens of thousands more corona cases per day
There is criticism from the German virologist Klaus Stöhr. “Unfortunately, ‘universal antibodies’ will not be the solution for vaccines in the near future,” he wrote in late July. on twitter. Although it can bind to the invariant part of the nail protein, it is bad because of its proximity to the virus envelope. “There just isn’t enough space to dock,” he says. And: If the antibodies were to bind here, “there would also be a selection pressure for this part of the nail protein and therefore also variants that would make it necessary to adapt the vaccine again.”
He sums up: “These ‘universal’ antibodies will not be ready for practical use in the next few years.” Even if it were to succeed, the vaccine candidates would still need to be tested. It may take years before they are used.