Humans seem to be losing their battle with the coronaviruses if you look at the bigger picture. There have been three incursions of these viruses into the human population over the last two decades. A massive Pandemic affected the world. New versions of the virus that causes COVID-19 are evading our immunity from previous infections. We might have a new weapon in this war.
The latest variant, BA.4 and BA.5 seem to be spreading. While we may be done with the Pandemic, it isn't done with us. The vaccine has provided an effective weapon against COVID, but the newer vaccines are less effective than the older ones. Many people have already received their second booster, and it won't be long before we need another.
Updating the vaccines is one way to keep the Pandemic at least manageable. Most people have already accepted the fact that we will have to get our annual COVID vaccines if we want to survive the disease. It looks like we need to get boosted every six months. Tracking the newer variant will produce longer- lasting immunity.
There is a way to develop a universal vaccine. It would protect against the next potential spillover event if we could do this. Universal vaccines have proved difficult to develop. We've been researching a universal flu vaccine for a long time, but haven't approved it. Viruses are clever. They hide their conserved bits, the important structures that all variant have in common, and cover them with variables that constantly change. They can't do this perfectly because they need to bind to receptors on human cells in order to invade and do their job
The business end of the coronaviruses is called the crown of spike genes. Existing vaccines target one or more spikeProteins, which allow the coronaviruses to invade cells. New variant of the spike proteins can alter how infectious and deadly the viruses are.
A new study shows a potential new technology that could result in a universal vaccine against all of the Viruses, not just the ones that cause the disease. The Caltech team created a nanoparticles that is referred to as a cage proteins. The coronaviruses can be attached to the cage. They made two different versions of the same thing. Rbds are from the spike proteins of SARS- CoV-2. The particles are from the same viruses.
They made mosaic-8, which contained 60RBD particles from different types ofviruses. The mice were injected with either a naked cage or a vaccine made from the mosaic-8. The mosaic-8 didn't have anyRBDs from the CoV. After determining that the vaccine produced an immune response, they challenged the mice to a fight against the two diseases. The mice died after being injected. The people who were injected with the mosaic-8 vaccine were protected against both of the Viruses, but not against the one that was injected with the Homotypic vaccine.
It's important to point out that the mosaic-8 vaccine didn't contain anyRBDs that were specific to that particular species of virus. They tested the vaccines in non-human primate with the same results. A phase-I study in humans is being planned.
The researchers hope that by targeting enough RBDs from a variety of betacoronaviruses, the mosaic-8 approach will target enough important sections of the spike proteins that they will have affinity for anybetacoronaviruses that can cause humans harm. Viruses can change their genes, but they can't change them too much, so they won't be able to cause harm. There are some keyRBDs that any infectious strain must have in order to survive. The viruses don't have a place to hide if they target enough of theRBDs.
We have to wait until we see the results of human trials to know if this approach works. The early data is encouraging. Future versions may need to be more than 8RBDs. There is a chance that we need a mosaic 10 or mosaic 12. Maybe eight is enough?
The platform may have other uses. If this works well, it will lead to a new vaccine technology that will give us a powerful tool against future Pandemics like the one we face today. The ultimate goal of universal coverage may be achieved with the help of vaccines that target multiple genes. It is possible that this approach will get us to the universal flu vaccine we have been looking for. HIV is a virus that hides.
It's clear that we are living in a world where epidemics and Pandemics are becoming more and more common. A once-in-a-century event is not what the COVID-19Ponzi is. It is time to wake up. The infrastructure of scientific research makes it possible for us to fight these diseases. Despite having technology, we may not have enough political and social infrastructure to deal with them.
Steven Novella is the founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine. The Great Courses and The Skeptics Guide to the Universe were both written by Dr. Novella.
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