For most of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines. What began earlier this year has transformed into a viral crisis with 69.8 million cases worldwide. To stifle the spread, many drug developers have worked to develop vaccines for COVID-19. According to Medical XPress, a team of researchers and virologists from Rega Institute at KU Leuven have modeled their COVID-19 vaccine, RegaVax, after a yellow fever vaccine. As a result, their unique vaccine could provide protection against both conditions. Learn more about the vaccine in the data published in Nature.
To create RegaVax, researchers added the genetic code for COVID-19 spikes into the yellow fever vaccine genetic code. Next, researchers tested the vaccine on hamsters and monkeys. While some animals received a vaccine, others were administered a placebo. First, the animals were vaccinated. Next, researchers administered the virus directly to the animals.
All hamsters were protected from COVID-19 within 3 weeks of vaccination. Additionally, they experienced no respiratory problems, like lung infections. Contrastingly, animals treated with the placebo did show signs of lung infection and other COVID-19-related symptoms. In monkeys, antibodies appeared within one week of vaccination.
Virologists decided to use the yellow fever vaccine since it has already been used for eight decades and been administered to hundreds of millions of people. The vaccine provides long-lasting immunity from yellow fever, suggesting that it could confer similar benefits in the realm of COVID-19. RegaVax also offers additional benefits. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) wants to completely eliminate yellow fever in the next 10 years; RegaVax would not only allow them to work towards this goal, but to also prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in countries with less access to medical care. Because the vaccine also doesn’t require the same freezing temperatures for storage, it is also more accessible and easy for doctors to help patients in tropical areas.
During 2021, the researchers hope to participate in clinical trials to determine the vaccine’s efficacy and safety in humans.
Named based on the jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) that it causes, yellow fever is a viral disease caused by an arbovirus of the flavivirus genus. The virus is transmitted through mosquitos, and most prevalent in tropical areas of Central America and Africa. In many cases, people will be asymptomatic. However, for those who do show symptoms, these typically appear within 3-6 days following infection and last for an additional 3-4 days. In extremely rare cases, people will experience severe symptoms which are fatal for about half of all patients. Symptoms include:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unintended weight loss
- Back pain
- Appetite loss
- Liver and kidney problems (severe symptom)
- Dark urine (severe symptom)
- Eye, nose, mouth, and stomach bleeding (severe symptom)
Learn more about yellow fever.