Corona: Tests for a universal vaccine on hamsters give hope

From alpha to omicron, from BA.1 to BA.5: New corona variants and sub-variants are constantly emerging and thus tricking one of the most important measures to contain the pandemic – vaccines lose their effectiveness and have to be adapted again and again.

The search for a universal vaccine that offers long-term protection has therefore long been underway. Now researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland/USA (NIH) believe they have found a new vaccine design that works equally well with current and future forms of SARS-CoV-2. The bonus: The vaccine could also protect against other diseases.

The NIH team reported in the journal “Cell Host & Microbe” about his preliminary study results.

Attachment to the spinal helix of the virus

Key to the NIH’s potential vaccine design is that part of the virus called the “spinal helix.” It’s a spiral structure inside the spike protein that helps the virus attach to and infect cells. Many proven vaccines target the spike protein. However, none of them specifically target the spinal helix. And yet there are good reasons to focus on this part of the pathogen. While many regions of the spike protein tend to change significantly when the virus mutates, the spine helix does not.

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