NIH-funded primate study underscores need for caution in COVID-19 vaccine quest

Findings published by a multicenter team that includes the Tulane National Primate Research Center suggest that at least one approach to developing a COVID-19 virus may have unwanted harmful effects.

Following up on earlier research conducted by Hong Kong-based team members during the SARS outbreak there, the current National Institutes of Health-funded study tested the effects of a SARS-CoV vaccine focused on antibody response against SARS-CoV spike glycoprotein (anti-S antibodies). In primate models, they found that the vaccine was indeed associated with reduced viral load. However, it was also associated with increased acute lung injury, promoting inflammation instead of wound healing response.

To be effective, a coronavirus vaccine must not only eliminate the virus but must also control lung inflammation, to prevent the acute respiratory failure that dramatically increases the risk of death. The findings suggest that modulation of the Anti-S antibody response, or an approach including other viral antigens, might be needed to create a vaccine that meets these dual objectives.

The findings were published in February by the Journal of Clinical Investigation: