Lost in the Ebola & EV-D68 News Cycle: A Promising MERS Vaccine

With Ebola and EV-D68 garnering all the attention, it's not surprising that people have forgotten about MERS. Thankfully, the research community hasn't stopped working to combat this virus that has just gone on a 3-day run of accruing cases in Saudi Arabia.

So, while the world is watching Ebola colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, led by Dr. Andrea Gambotto, recently published results of a promising vaccine candidate in Vaccine

In this study, an adenovirus-MERS recombinant virus (of note, adenovirus-vectored vaccines against Ebola are being studied too), was used in mice and antibodies level measured. The vaccine succesfully provided robust levels of antibodies against the MERS coronavirus, an important correlate of immunity.

What is interesting about this vaccine study is that one of its explicit goals is to create a vaccine that could be used in the animal species responsible for transmitted the MERS virus to humans, presumably camels. It's not an unprecedented idea; we immunize many animal species against rabies and a very select number of humans receive the vaccine. Removing the transmission mechanism of this virus could obviate the need for large scale human vaccination.

It may be difficult to keep up with all the emerging threats and track all the zebras, but we ignore them at our own peril. To echo Dr. Gambotto's statement to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette--"we want to be pre-emptive” against MERS, and all emerging infectious diseases.