October 30, 2020

First vaccine against the coronavirus epidemic

Its name is mRNA-1273, and on February 24, the first batch of Moderna Inc. laboratories in Massachusetts came out. The destination was the facilities of NIAD (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). The product is the first candidate substance to be a vaccine against the SARS-coV-2 virus. In NIAD the first clinical trials with the medicine will be carried out. Phase 1, still far from becoming a vaccine in the market. But something is something.

Reaching this point has only been possible because a few days ago, according to LA RAZÓN, a team of scientists from the United States Vaccine Research Center and the University of Texas at Austin, deciphered the structure of the spiral protein in the surface of the virus, responsible for the microorganism can fuse with the cells it infects. The product consists of an mRNA vaccine, based on the messenger RNA of the cells. Its virtue lies in being able to act on the spiral protein (Spike) in a phase prior to cell fusion.

In other words, it disables the key that the virus needs to spread. This Spike protein is, in fact, the target to which most vaccines that are investigated against coronaviruses are commonly directed. In essence, a vaccine is like a teacher who teaches our immune system to defend against aggressors. In this case, the product of Moderna Inc. uses the newly discovered structure of the spiral protein to cause an immune reaction in the body that blocks cell fusion, such as showing the photo of a wolf to a little lamb so that it can identify and identify it. get away from him.

A few hours after the announcement of this company, another company called Novamax, based in Maryland, said it had made great strides in another substance tested on animals. His intention is to start clinical trials with her at the end of this spring. The raw material is the same, the famous Spike protein. In this case, nanoparticle technology has been used to generate protein derived antigens.

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The shares of both companies experienced a spectacular rise in the stock market at the end of the week. The race has begun and whoever reaches the goal before will have done one of the biggest businesses in its history. But the competition has been complicated with the arrival of a third runner. Only two days ago a group of Israeli scientists announced that in a matter of weeks they will have their own vaccine available against the virus that causes Covid-19. It is a human-adjusted version of the oral vaccine that is used to fight avian bronchiolitis. If the appropriate funding path is found, Israeli experts claim to be able to have the medicine available in 90 days.

One of the keys to understanding the future evolution of these three research strategies lies within the human body. It is still clear that infected patients spontaneously develop antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that will protect them in the long run. A patient cured spontaneously, how long does he remain immune to evil? The experience of the 2003 SARS epidemic showed that recovered patients stopped producing antibodies between 5 and 10 years after infection.

The autonomous ability to generate permanent immune response may be essential to accelerate the virus containment process through vaccination in future waves. The three bets on the table, in addition to some Chinese proposals, are working in record time. Just 40 days after the virus was identified, there were already valid proposals for substances that could be used as vaccine candidates. And it is that science already has ample experience with these infectious agents.

Seven types

There are seven different coronaviruses that are known to infect humans. Four of them only produce a mild constipation (229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1). The other three are already famous: those responsible for the epidemics of MERS and SARS and the new one, which brings us upside down these days. The lethality of all of them is very variable. Among them, the one that seems to have a faster transmission is the cause of the current outbreak of Covid-19.

This new virus, and the cause of the 2003 SARS epidemic share a quality: they do not remain alone in the upper respiratory tract and tend to infect the lungs. Why? One possible explanation is that both relate to a receptor in human cells called ACE-2. This receptor is found in epithelial cells of the deep and upper respiratory system and also in pneumocytes that are in the alveoli.

Coronavirus’s taste for this receptor could explain why mortality is somewhat higher than expected but at the same time it could give some clue on how to combat it, but answering all these questions takes a long time. It is very likely that we do not have a solution before the new wave of the virus arrives … if it arrives.

On-going medicine to mitigate the effects

While the vaccine arrives, the highest hopes are placed in the finding of an antiviral therapy that is effective in stopping the symptoms of Covid-19. In a matter of days, the first clinical trial in adult humans of the remdesivir molecule applied to those affected by this new disease will begin. These are three studies with 1,000 patients mainly from Asia.

Remdesivir is a medication that has also been tested in patients with Ebola and SARS. This molecule can be used in extreme cases, as compassionate use in some countries for patients whose condition is very serious and with the express consent of the patient. The few times it has been administered it has achieved promising results, but it is necessary to validate them with rigorous tests in humans.

According to the Technical Document of Clinical Management of Patients with New Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19), published by the Ministry of Health, “there is currently no evidence from controlled clinical trials to recommend a specific treatment for SARS-CoV- coronavirus. 2 in patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 ». Although some drugs such as remdesivir, lopinavir and ritonavir (the latter employees against HIV) may be useful if administered under the informed consent of the affected patient.


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