MERS Vaccine Development Accelerates

CEPI priority diseases included the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus MERS-CoV
camels in the dessert

Since launching in 2017, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has announced various initiatives supporting the science behind vaccines against priority pathogens.

‘Vaccines can help prevent disease outbreaks from becoming humanitarian crises,’ says the CEPI website on July 11, 2020.

Well before the emergence of COVID-19 disease in December 2019, CEPI’s priority diseases included the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

It’s thought that camels are a major source of infection in people. Raising camels, eating undercooked camel meat, and drinking raw camel milk or urine are risk factors for the disease in humans.

People are advised to prevent getting infected with MERS by avoiding camel products, and by being hygienic, especially around animals, says the CEPI.

MERS is a zoonotic disease, meaning it passes from animals to humans. 

Additionally, MERS-CoV can also spread from person to person, usually through close contact.

MERS-CoV is part of the same family of beta coronaviruses that causes the common cold. Most cases of the virus infections have common symptoms including high temperatures, body aches, sore throat, running nose, and cough. 

These symptoms most often last for a few days and then disappear.

However, for certain people infected with MERS, the case-fatality rate can exceed 30 percent.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at the end of May 2020, the total number of laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infection cases was 2,562. with 881 associated fatalities. 

Countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula have reported MERS cases, including Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The majority of these cases and fatalities were reported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Only 2 individuals in the USA have ever tested positive for MERS-CoV infection, both in May 2014.

The WHO said on July 2, 2020, based on the available information, it encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

However, the WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.

Regarding MERS treatments, a study published in January 2020, found that remdesivir could be an effective therapy.

From a preemptive perspective, there is currently no approved vaccine against MERS-CoV. 

However, there are several preventive vaccine candidates in clinical studies, such as:

  • ChAdOx1 MERS-CoV that consists of the replication-deficient simian adenovirus vector ChAdOx1, containing the MERS Spike protein antigen
  • INO-4700 MERS-CoV a DNA plasmid vaccine that expresses the MERS CoV spike (S) glycoprotein

CEPI is a Norwegian Association, which has a governing body of 12 voting Board members.

CoronavirusToday publishes vaccine development news.