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Infectious Diseases

Updated 20 April 2020

Could a measles vaccine help in the fight against Covid-19?

While some vaccine candidates have already reached the clinical evaluation stage, the search is ongoing.

Months into the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of 70 vaccine candidates, with three of those already in the first phases of clinical evaluation.

In one of these efforts, France’s Pasteur Institute is working on making use of a modified measles vaccine to trick the body into producing antibodies against the new coronavirus, according to a report.

The Pasteur Institute is renowned for their fight against infectious diseases, having come up with remedies against a number of diseases, including typhoid fever, tuberculosis, yellow fever and HIV.

According to virologist Frédéric Tangy, nearly all 133 research departments of the institute are actively involved in Covid-19 related research.

How can a measles vaccine fight coronavirus?

Tangy and his team will modify a standard measles vaccine in the hope that it will trigger an immune response against the new coronavirus, similar to the action of the MMR vaccine that is currently used against measles, mumps and rubella.

Benefits of this venture would include the fact that an MMR vaccine is quick and affordable to manufacture, and that a single vaccination can trigger strong and long-lasting immunity.

An MMR vaccine usually works by triggering the body to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella after a live, weakened form of these viruses is injected. The weakened form of these viruses is enough to trigger the immune system to deliver a response, but not strong enough to make you ill.

The same strategy showed promising results when it was used for the institute's vaccine against Chikugunya, a disease caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitos in South Asia. This current vaccine is now in phase thee of its clinical trial.

How long will such a vaccine take to develop?

If this vaccine candidate tuns out to be promising, the University of Pittsburgh’s Centre for Vaccine Research will partner with the Pasteur Institute to start animal testing.

Vials will then be manufactured for the first phase of a clinical trial, which should be able to take place within a year.

Tangy explained that it is vital to have enough time to test for side-effects, as the wrong immune response can be more dangerous than the virus itself.

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