Scientists develop a cheap ‘universal’ COVID-19 vaccine

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In a new study from the University of Virginia, researchers found an experimental COVID-19 vaccine could potentially provide universal protection against future COVID variants as well as other coronaviruses—maybe even the ones responsible for the common cold.

And it’s very cheap—less than $1 a dose.

The vaccine targets a part of the COVID virus’ spike protein that appears to be highly resistant to mutation and is common across nearly all coronaviruses.

In the study, the team found the COVID vaccine protected pigs against two separate diseases caused by two types of coronavirus, COVID-19 and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV).

The implication is if a COVID vaccine could protect a pig against PEDV, the likelihood is pretty good that it could provide broad protection against many different COVID variants.

These results represent a great opportunity to develop universal coronavirus vaccines.

Other coronaviruses cause approximately 25% of our common colds, and are also major emerging infectious disease threats.

Being able to take coronaviruses off the table as a biological threat would be a major advantage, and a universal vaccine would be the best means to do so.

The experimental vaccine is based on genetically modified bacteria, which can be mass-produced at a fraction of the cost of currently approved COVID-19 vaccines.

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines now in use cost about $10 a dose, a price that could be prohibitive in developing countries.

But bacteria-based vaccines for cholera and pertussis can be brewed in large quantities on the cheap. A South Korean company reportedly made 6 million doses of cholera vaccine in one year using a single 100-liter fermenter, at a cost of less than $1 a dose.

The team designed the vaccine to go after a portion of the COVID virus’ spike protein called the “viral fusion peptide,” which is essentially universal among coronaviruses. The spike protein is what the virus uses to invade human cells.

If the new target proves effective in follow-up research, companies with COVID-19 vaccines already on the market might want to incorporate them into potential future “booster” doses.

If you care about COVID-19, please read studies about this drug may boost vaccine responses in older people and findings of what happens after you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

For more information about COVID-19 and your health, please see recent studies about why older people must go to the front of the COVID-19 vaccine line and results about how to make COVID vaccines more effective: give people vitamin and mineral supplements.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One author of the study is Dr. Steven Zeichner.

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