Scientists have identified a “promising” target for a potential pan-coronavirus vaccine, which would not only protect against Covid-19 but also the common cold.
Researchers at London’s Francis Crick Institute have identified a specific area of the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, which appears to be a good target for a vaccine solution.
Studies carried out on mice showed that antibodies targeting the “S2 subunit” of the virus, produced as a result of the vaccine, successfully neutralized various animal and human coronaviruses, including the common cold coronavirus HCoV-OC43 as well as the dominant strains of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
Developing a universal coronavirus vaccine is a huge challenge, the scientists say, because the family of viruses have many key differences, mutate frequently and tend to induce incomplete protection against reinfection. A universal vaccine would need to trigger antibodies that recognize and neutralize a range of coronaviruses, preventing the virus from entering hosts cells and replicating.
“The S2 area of the spike protein is a promising target for a potential pan-coronavirus vaccine because this area is much more similar across different coronaviruses than the S1 area,” said Kevin Ng, the study’s co-first author.
“It is less subject to mutations, and so a vaccine targeted at this area should be more robust.”
The researchers discovery is expected to prompt increased research into the S2 area of the spike protein, which until now had been largely overlooked by vaccine researchers.