Second NIAID SARS vaccine candidate helps mice fend off SARS

An experimental vaccine based on a critical piece of the SARS virus protects mice from SARS infection, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, have found. When exposed to the SARS virus, immunized mice produced SARS-specific antibodies, and virus replication was nearly eliminated.

The new report, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online, is the second from NIAID in recent weeks describing a promising SARS vaccine candidate.

"We now have two candidate vaccines, based on two distinct technologies, shown to be effective against SARS infection in mice," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "The animal model employed in both studies was developed by NIAID researchers as well. By taking various approaches to vaccine development, we are making significant research progress against a disease that was unknown little more than a year ago."

SARS is caused by a coronavirus, a family of viruses so named because spiky proteins protrude from the virus's surface, giving the microbe a crown-like appearance. The newly described vaccine is based on the spike (S) protein. Because the virus initiates infection by attaching to and entering cells using its S protein, a vaccine based on this protein should closely mimic natural infection, notes senior author, Bernard Moss, M.D., Ph.D.

Investigators inserted the gene encoding the S protein into a virus called modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA). Neither MVA nor the solitary gene from the SARS virus can cause disease. Instead, MVA simply ferries the SARS gene into the body. First developed as a vaccine against smallpox, MVA has an excellent safety record in humans, says Dr. Moss, and it efficiently stimulates both the antibody and cellular arms of the immune system.

Dr. Moss and his colleagues collaborated in this research with fellow NIAID scientist Kanta Subbarao,

Contact: Anne A. Oplinger
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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