Monkeys deliberately infected with the CCP virus and given Massachusetts-based Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine were able to quickly clear the virus from their lungs, researchers said on July 28.
A study (pdf) published in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday, suggested that the experimental vaccine, MRNA-1273, protected against infection in the lungs and noses of monkeys, and induced a robust immune response.
In the study involving 24 monkeys, Moderna tested doses of 10 micrograms or 100 micrograms of the vaccine against no treatment.
Both doses proved effective at protecting against viral replication in the lungs and lung inflammation, with the larger dose also protecting against viral replication in the nose of the animals.
Moderna’s Dr Stephen Hoge says in non-human primate study of #COVID19 vaccine, data 2 days after challenge with live virus “starts to look like sterilizing immunity” – ie prevents infection completely, not just manifestation of disease (per Moderna call now)
— Meg Tirrell (@megtirrell) July 29, 2020
All macaques given the experimental vaccine produced high levels of neutralizing antibodies that target a part of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus used to invade cells. Antibodies are a blood protein produced by the immune system to combat viruses and other foreign material.
“The virus was cleared very rapidly in the vaccinated animals,” Dr. Barney S. Graham, the senior author of the report, and the deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The New York Times. Graham’s scientific team worked with American biotech firm Moderna to develop the vaccine.
The monkeys in the control which did not receive the vaccine were not able to rapidly get rid of the virus.
The findings of the study are significant, Graham explained, because it suggested that the vaccinated monkeys were able to clear much of the virus from their noses, and prevented it from propagating greatly.
“If you get a little infection that is cleared rapidly and doesn’t shed very long, it reduces the likelihood of transmission,” he said.
“I think we have a chance of having some protection from this vaccine, but we have to do the phase 3 trial to find out,” he added.
Moderna on Monday began its final stages of testing to evaluate the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing the respiratory illness in around 30,000 adult trial participants, marking the first American company to advance to phase 3 of clinical testing.
The testing for phase 3 is going to take place in clinical research sites in the United States.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the trial volunteers will be separated into two groups, and be issued either the vaccine or the controlled placebo. Two separate shots of either 100 microgram of the vaccine or the placebo solution will be given to the volunteers, but they will be issued 28 days apart from each other. Moreover, this trial will be a blind one, where both the volunteers and researchers will not know which one is given to whom.
Paula Liu and Reuters contributed to this report.