The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may protect children from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to a new hypothesis by researchers at Kaunas University of Technology. 

COVID-19, which is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has claimed more than 450,000 lives globally. According to the press release, there has been more than 9 million confirmed cases worldwide. Data of COVID-19 patients from Italy, China, and South Korea show that the virus is less common and milder in children under 10. 

The reasons behind why the virus has less of an effect on children is unclear. However, new research from a group of Lithuanian and Kurdish scientists suggest that early childhood vaccines offer children protection. According to the press release, the key may lie in the sequence similarity of 30 amino acid residues between glycoproteins of SARS-CoV-2, measles and rubella viruses. An experimental analysis is needed in order to support the researchers’ hypothesis. 

"The antibodies produced in children due to the MMR vaccine could recognize some protein parts (epitopes) on the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. These antibodies, particularly in the epithelial layer of respiratory airways, block binding, and entering the virus into the cells,” KTU Panevezys Faculty of Technology and Business professor Rimantas Kodzius, PhD, said in the press release. 

According to the press release, recent studies have shown that the levels of antibodies against MMR vaccination may persist between 15 and 20 years. This means that protection against COVID-19 may last up to 20 years, but more research is needed to support this hypothesis, according to the study authors. 

Researchers involved with the hypothesis said that this is evidence that collaboration is important, even if over distance. 

"In uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaboration yields results. The phone connection, the internet is available, and the work is possible even without travel,” Kodzius said. 

Reference

Early childhood vaccinations might protect children from COVID-19 (News Release); Kaunas University of Technology; June 25, 2020; EurekAlert!; accessed June 25, 2020