A couple of fresh studies led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and published in the journal Science help shine some light on two critical questions, including whether vaccines will prevent infection with COVID-19 and does contracting the virus once protects from re-exposure to the pathogen? Scientists are working furiously and tirelessly to help humanity better understand what kind of protective immunity is associated with exposure to SARS-CoV-2. If these two studies are reflective of reality, then there is good news. The key takeaway as summarized by senior author Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC: “In these two studies, we demonstrate in rhesus macaques that prototype vaccines protected against SARS-CoV-2 infection and that SARS-CoV-2 infection protected against re-exposure.” This is certainly good news, and now the research team will pursue additional tests with Johnson & Johnson.
TrialSite News offers a brief and concise breakdown of Dr. Barouch and team findings.
What did the first study reveal?
The team demonstrates that six candidate DNA vaccines induced neutralizing antibody responses and protected against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques.
What gave these scientists the baseline knowledge for their studies?
Back in January, when Chinese scientists first released the viral genome, Barouch and colleagues developed a series of candidate DNA vaccines expressing variants of the Spike protein, a key antibody target of the novel coronavirus. These vaccines are designed to train the body’s immune system to recognize and respond quickly to the virus upon exposure.
How did the scientists access the efficacy of the vaccines in the first study?
They immunized 25 adult rhesus macaques with the investigational vaccines, and 10 animals received a sham control. The team discovered that the vaccinated animals developed neutralizing antibodies against the virus. Three weeks after a boost vaccination, all 35 animals were exposed to the virus.
What were the results of this first study?
Upon follow up tests, the team found dramatically lower viral loads in vaccinated animals compared to the control group. Additionally, eight of the 25 vaccinated animals demonstrated no detectable virus at any point following exposure to the virus, and the other animals showed low levels of virus. Additionally, higher antibody levels were linked to lower viral loads, pointing to the declaration that neutralizing antibodies may serve as a correlate of protection and may prove useful as a benchmark in clinical testing SARS-CoV-2.
The second study focused on protective immunity against re-infection: why the upbeat prognosis?
Well, as it turns out, the study team uncovered that the monkeys that were exposed and subsequentially recovered from COVID-19 developed natural protective immunity against re-infection.
How does this correspond with human dynamics?
Well as Dr. Barouch directly stated, “Individuals who recover from many viral infections typically develop antibodies that provide protection against re-exposure, but not all viruses generate this natural protective immunity.”
What is the basis of their declaration?
All nine of the animals that were exposed to COVID-19 recovered and developed antibodies against the virus. And after six months the animals were re-exposed—thereafter, they demonstrated near-complete protection against SARS-CoV-2.
What does the data suggest?
That at least in this model, primates have natural protective immunity against COVID-19
Is this research team partnering with any biotech/pharma companies?
Yes. Johnson & Johnson. They will test the Ad26-based vaccines with them.
Who funded the study?
Lisa Schwartz Foundation; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Janssen Vaccines & Prevention BV; the National Institutes of Health; Burroughs Wellcome Fund Postdoctoral Enrichment Program Award; Fast Grant, Emergent Ventures, Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. For more information, visit their website here.
BIDMC is part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a new health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, as well as more than 4,000 physicians
Dan Barouch, MD, Infectious Disease, BIDMC, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research
Call to Action: This research team developed Ad26-based vaccines and will test them with partner Johnson & Johnson. TrialSite News monitors and tracks—sign up for the daily newsletter for daily updates.