SARS vaccine triggers immunity in monkeys

An experimental vaccine against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus has elicited a strong immune response against the virus in a test on monkeys, the vaccine’s developers report.

Immunologist Andrea Gambotto and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine devised a vaccine using three common-cold adenoviruses, each genetically modified to produce a protein from the coronavirus that causes SARS. When injected into six rhesus macaque monkeys via two shots 28 days apart, the vaccine induced production of antibodies and T cells against SARS, the researchers report in the Dec. 6, 2003 Lancet. The response was best after the booster shot, but signs of immunity were already present 2 weeks after the first injection, Gambotto says.

What’s more, when the scientists took blood from each monkey and exposed the sample to live SARS virus in a lab dish, the antibodies and T cells neutralized the virus.

Gambotto and his colleagues now intend to test the vaccine in ferrets exposed to SARS virus. Ferrets are more susceptible to the disease than rhesus macaques are.

Several groups are working on SARS vaccines. Gambotto predicts that one or more of these vaccines could reach large human trials within a year or two, especially if more outbreaks warrant an expedited approach.


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