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Call the virus that causes COVID-19 Include Coronaviruses can be a bit misleading — in fact, it’s just one of hundreds of coronaviruses.

Most of these coronaviruses only infect birds and animals, but seven (so far) Jump to humans..

Four cause only mild symptoms in people, but three cause serious illnesses — SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19 — and many virologists see the next deadly coronavirus. I believe it’s only a matter of time.

“This has already happened three times,” said Daniel Hoft, a virologist at Saint Louis University. Told the New York Times.. “It’s very likely that it will happen again.”

Vaccines are one of the best ways to stop the spread of infectious diseases, and the United States has approved the first vaccine COVID-19 vaccine It’s a big win, considering that this process usually takes 10 years, less than a year after the pandemic began.

Still, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died while the shot was being developed, and the virus is already evolving. New variant.. According to infectious disease expert Kayvon Modjarrad, a better approach is to have a vaccine. Before The pandemic begins.

“Fast-really fast-is there on the first day,” he told the NYT.

It is not possible to develop a vaccine against a particular coronavirus that we have not yet seen, but it may be possible to create a universal coronavirus vaccine that can protect against not just one but a variety of coronaviruses.

Some groups We are currently developing such a vaccine — and only one Presentation That promising progress.

Universal coronavirus vaccine

When the immune system first encounters a pathogen, it creates a protein called antibody.. If it infects the body again, those antibodies can not only quickly identify and nullify intruders, but also induce a broader immune system.

Vaccines protect themselves from disease by producing these antibodies Before Infection. Most COVID-19 vaccines do this by introducing the body into one antibody-triggered portion of the coronavirus. Spike protein..

All coronaviruses have a spike protein, which gives the virus a crown-like appearance. This is the origin of the name. These proteins are used to attach to and infect host cells.

To create a universal coronavirus vaccine, CalTech researchers started with a vaccine framework called “mosaic nanoparticles.” It looks like a cage made up of 60 identical proteins.

CalTech’s Universal Coronavirus Vaccine contains multiple coronavirus fragments. Credit: A. Cohen / BioRender

It then manipulates fragments of peplomer proteins from eight coronaviruses (SARS-CoV-2 and seven that infect animals but are considered a threat to humans) and bind to the nanoparticle framework. did. The end result was a vaccine with many different coronavirus spike fragments protruding.

When the universal coronavirus vaccine was injected into mice, it caused the production of antibodies that responded to eight coronaviruses. And The other four too. Three of them were viruses that infect animals and one was a coronavirus that infects humans: SARS-CoV.

This suggests that the vaccine has taught the immune system to recognize the general characteristics of the coronavirus.

“(This study) shows that it is possible to trigger a variety of neutralizing antibody reactions, even against coronavirus strains that are not represented in the injected nanoparticles,” said researcher Pamela Bjork. Mann said. Press release..

An ounce of prevention …

Inducing antibody production in mice is a good first step towards the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine, but there is much more to come.

First, determine if the CalTech vaccine can actually prevent the symptoms of animal infections and illnesses. If so, human clinical trials may continue.

If these tests are successful and the vaccine is approved, we may already be protected from it the next time a dangerous coronavirus infects humans. Preventing a pandemic is far more desirable than defeating a pandemic.

“None of us want to do this again,” NIAID virologist Matthew Memoli told the NYT. “And we don’t want our children, grandchildren, or offspring 100 years from now to experience this again.”

We look forward to hearing from you! If you have any comments about this article, or if you have any tips for future Freethink stories, please email us at: [email protected]..

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