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Experimental MERS vaccine battles virus in mice and monkeys

MERS virus (yellow)

DEFENSE  Vaccine candidates developed from DNA and proteins of the MERS virus (above, yellow) produced protective immune proteins and reduced lung damage in monkeys six days after infection.    

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New experimental vaccines use viral DNA and proteins to help animals’ immune systems fight the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome. The vaccines stimulate the production of antibody proteins that latch onto and disable the MERS virus, researchers report July 28 in Nature Communications.

When attacking MERS viruses, antibodies target a virus protein called the Spike glycoprotein. The scientists designed vaccines containing either the viral DNA with the genetic blueprint for making this protein, or a section of the protein itself. Two injections of DNA followed by one injection of protein, or two injections of protein, produced large amounts of virus-eliminating antibodies in mice and monkeys. Using both DNA and protein vaccines resulted in more diverse antibodies, the researchers say. Both vaccine combinations reduced lung damage in monkeys six days after MERS infection.

Though these particular vaccine regimens are not intended for the clinic, the results suggest that effective vaccines for MERS could be developed from the Spike protein, says study coauthor Barney Graham, a vaccinologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md.  

No vaccine currently exists to combat MERS in humans. The virus has infected nearly 1400 people and killed about 500 worldwide since its identification in 2012. 

Animals,, Physiology

Stink bug moms are color conscious when it comes to their eggs

By Sarah Schwartz 5:36pm, July 24, 2015
P. maculiventris moms control the color of their eggs, seemingly pairing darker eggs with darker surfaces.

Stretchy fiber keeps electrons flowing

By Andrew Grant 5:04pm, July 23, 2015
Folded layers of carbon nanotubes allow an elastic fiber to conduct electrical current when stretched.

Boas kill by cutting off blood flow, not airflow

By Ashley Yeager 6:00pm, July 22, 2015
Boas actually kill by constricting blood flow of their prey, not suffocating them, as scientists previously suspected.
Oceans,, Climate

Blooming phytoplankton seed clouds in the Southern Ocean

By Beth Mole 2:00pm, July 17, 2015
Booming phytoplankton populations spark cloud formation in the Southern Ocean.
Health,, Microbes,, Microbiology

Mosquitoes can get a double dose of malaria

By Tina Hesman Saey 11:44am, July 17, 2015
Carrying malaria may make mosquitoes more susceptible to infection with a second strain of the parasite that causes the disease.
Neuroscience,, Human Development

Bundles of cells hint at biological differences of autistic brains

By Sarah Schwartz 9:20am, July 17, 2015
Using miniature organoids that mimic the human brain, scientists have identified developmental differences between autistic children and their non-autistic family members.

How screams shatter the brain

By Laura Sanders 12:00pm, July 16, 2015
The acoustical properties of screams make them hard to ignore, a new study suggests.

Exploding star breaks record for brightest supernova

By Christopher Crockett 9:53am, July 9, 2015
A recent supernova shines with the light of 600 billion suns.

How dinos like Triceratops got their horns

By Ashley Yeager 3:24pm, July 8, 2015
A new dino named Wendiceratops pinhornensis gives hints about how Triceratops and other relatives got their horns.
Health,, Microbiology

New cases of Ebola emerge in Liberia

By Tina Hesman Saey 3:43pm, July 7, 2015
Liberia has recorded three new Ebola cases after being declared free of the disease in May.
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