COVID-19 Vaccine Could Provide Immunity to Other Coronaviruses

Northwestern Medicine study results show that mice were protected from other strains when those from prior infections or in their vaccinations were greater than 70%.

COVID-19 vaccines and prior coronavirus infections can help build and protect immunity against other similar coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, results from a study by Northwestern Medicine show.

These findings could support the need for a universal COVID-19 vaccine that would help prevent future epidemics.

“It’s likely there isn’t [a universal vaccine], but we might end up with a generic vaccine for each of the main families of coronaviruses, for example, a universal Sarbecovirus vaccine for SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and other SARS-related coronaviruses, or a universal Embecovirus for HCoV-OC43 and HKU1 that cause common colds.” Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, assistant professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Investigators found that individuals who were vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 produced antibodies that also protected against the common cold coronavirus (OC43).

The results showed that mice that were immunized with a SARS-CoV-1 vaccine developed in 2004 generated immunity against SARS-CoV-2. The results also showed that prior coronavirus infections can provide immunity against other coronaviruses that are similar.

Investigators found that mice immunized with COVID-19 vaccines were only partially protected against the common cold, HCoV-OC43, which is from a different SARS strain than SARS-CoV-2.

The mice were protected when the coronavirus strains were greater than 70%, Penaloza-MacMaster said.

“We found that these individuals developed antibody responses that neutralized a common cold coronavirus, HCoV-OC43,” he said. “We are now measuring how long this cross-protection lasts.”

There are 3 main families of coronaviruses: Embecovirus, which includes the virus for the common cold; Merbecovirus, which is the virus responsible for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome; and Sarbecovirus, which includes SARS strains.

The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Reference

One coronavirus vaccine may protect against other coronaviruses. EurekAlert. News release. October 15, 2021. Accessed on October 18, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/931786