Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) emerged in 2012 and has killed 40% of the 1,300 people infected with the virus. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania believe they have developed a promising vaccine against the virus.
The researchers found that individuals infected with MERS have a strong immune response to a viral protein called ‘spike’. Armed with this knowledge, they synthesised a computer-designed DNA sequence for the protein. In mammals, the DNA is taken into cells that then express the protein, eliciting an immune response. In rhesus macaques administered the DNA vaccine, none of them developed MERS after exposure to the virus. It also induced protective antibodies in camels, a species that transmits MERS to humans.
This strategy could be valuable in the fight against MERS, the authors conclude in Science Translational Medicine (online, 19 August 2015)
 Muthumani K, Falzarano D, Reuschel EL et al . A synthetic consensus anti-spike protein DNA vaccine induces protective immunity against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in nonhuman primates. Science Translational Medicine 2015. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aac7462.