In the race to create a coronavirus vaccine, Moderna, the Massachusetts-based biotech company, announced promising results: the primates who received their vaccine and then deliberately became infected were able to fight the virus, quickly removing it from their lungs, Scientists reported Tuesday.
According to the report published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the effectiveness of the mRNA-1273 vaccine was tested in 24 rhesus macaques of Indian origin – eight formed a control group, eight were administered a low dose of the vaccine and the other eight a high dose. Each primate received two injections, four weeks apart. One month after the second injection, the researchers poured out an amount of coronavirus comparable to that found in the airways of infected people.
Rhesus macaques can become infected with COVID-19, but do not become seriously ill. The vaccine may not perform as well in people, but studies of this type are considered valuable since humans are not usually deliberately infected.
Moderna’s vaccine uses a synthetic form of genetic material from the coronavirus, called messenger RNA (mRNA), wrapped in tiny fat particles that help it enter human cells. Once in the cells, the mRNA prompts them to make a fragment of the virus, preparing the immune system to attack if it encounters the real coronavirus.
Based on the study’s evaluation, the vaccine produced a « robust immune response » and protection against virus infection in the upper and lower respiratory tract in macaques. In fact, they found high levels of antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus – more than are found in people who have recovered from infection – in vaccinated primates.
Although it did not completely prevent the infection, it managed to prevent the virus from spreading greatly. The primates who were vaccinated had some virus in their noses, but much less than those who were not vaccinated.
« Vaccination of non-human primates with mRNA-1273 induced robust SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing activity, rapid protection of the upper and lower airways, and the absence of pathological changes in the lung, » the scientists concluded.
These results were compared with the clinical data from phase 1 of the vaccine, which was tested in humans. The scientists found great similarity in the protective immune response generated by mRNA-1273 in both macaques and humans.
For this reason, Moderna is « cautiously optimistic » regarding the ability of mRNA-1273 to both prevent COVID-19 and slow the spread of a virus that has infected 16,845,602 people and killed 662,577 around the world, according to the data. from Johns Hopkins University.
On Monday, American clinics began the Phase 3 trial of the Moderna vaccine with the goal of enrolling 30,000 people to test its safety and efficacy.
These efforts are part of the Operation Warp Speed program, which seeks to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate development, the manufacture and distribution of countermeasures for this virus.
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