NIAID vaccine protects against SARS virus infection in mice

An experimental vaccine prevents the SARS virus from replicating in laboratory mice, according to a new report in the April 1 issue of Nature. Scientists at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health, developed the vaccine. The vaccine was tested in a recently-described mouse model of SARS infection with other NIAID investigators.

The VRC scientists are preparing further experiments to evaluate the vaccine's safety and potential to induce similar immune responses in humans. The vaccine contains a small piece of SARS virus DNA, insufficient to reproduce the SARS virus, yet able to stimulate a protective immune response.

"This research was done in a remarkably short period of time, a testament to the serious attention and great cooperation the public health community has displayed in response to SARS. It has been just one year from identification of the SARS coronavirus to the development of this vaccine that has now proven effective against SARS in a laboratory animal," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID.

The DNA vaccine is made from a small piece of DNA that codes for a coat protein normally found on the outer surface of the SARS virus. This protein helps the SARS virus gain access to living cells, where it can cause infection. Because the DNA in the vaccine codes only for the protein, by itself it is unable to cause infection. NIAID scientists also modified the DNA so that it does not match the virus' genetic sequence to minimize the risk of it combining with the genetic material of SARS or other coronaviruses.

Most existing vaccines use killed or weakened forms of a whole virus or bacteria to protect against disease. This DNA vaccine works by directing the body's cells to make proteins very similar to those on the surface of the SARS virus. These proteins trigger the immune system to mount a defense e

Contact: Linda Joy
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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