MERS: Dromedaries successfully vaccinated

Dromedaries are considered carriers of the MERS coronavirus.

© Drosten/Uniklinik Bonn

A German-Dutch team of researchers has successfully vaccinated dromedaries against the MERS coronavirus. Dromedaries are believed to be the source of MERS infection in humans. At the German Center for Infection Research, the candidate vaccine is also being tested in humans for the first time. Prof Gerd Sutter, LMU Munich, will lead the phase I trial.

The MERS virus causes respiratory tract illness, which can be fatal in humans. Dromedaries, one-humped camels, are believed to be the source of infection. A research team around Gerd Sutter, Professor and Chair for Virology at the Department of Veterinary Sciences of the LMU’s Institute of Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses, Professor Bart L. Haagmans from the Erasmus Medical Center (MC) in Rotterdam and Professor Albert Osterhaus from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation have now successfully tested their candidate vaccine in dromedaries. “For the first time we have shown that our vaccine significantly decreases the viral load in camels,” says Gerd Sutter. The research team has published its results in the renowned journal Science.

The candidate vaccine MVA-MERS-S had already been developed by Gerd Sutter two years ago. The virologist, together with researchers from Philipps-Universität Marburg and the Erasmus MC, inserted a MERS gene into an attenuated vaccinia virus in order to develop the vaccine. The efficacy of MVA-MERS-S has been confirmed by several tests over the last years.

Phase I trial in planning

MVA-MERS-S is a candidate vaccine for humans as well. Now, after undergoing several tests, MVA-MERS-S fulfils important prerequisites for being tested in humans in clinical trials for the first time. At the DZIF, Gerd Sutter heads the project “GMP manufacture and phase I clinical investigation of MVA-MERS-S, an experimental prophylactic vaccine against the Middle East Respiratory Virus Syndrome” (see also PR from 17 June 2015)

LMU Press release (only German)

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