Within a year, we may already have a vaccine for COVID-19, according to global health authorities. Yes: although it seems like something out of science fiction. Several laboratories have been working for years to develop a vaccine, since Coronaviridae, the family of the virus that has infected some 31,000 people around the globe as of mid-February of 2020. Is a well-known old enemy of medical science.
The Coronavirus Is Not a New Agent…
The coronavirus family, which originated in animals, includes seven species that can affect human health, in some cases only slightly, in others seriously. Four variants can develop without serious consequences in the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, or the ocular system (conjunctivitis), but there are three very dangerous ones, including SRAS, MERS, and the new strain called “COVID-19,” which has already caused over a thousand deaths, most of them in Wuhan, China, where it was first detected.
Nevertheless, we have lived for years with this dangerous microscopic virus. The SRAS-CoV was discovered in 2002 and affected more than 8,000 people in 37 different countries. While the MERS-CoV was first detected in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and caused more than 800 deaths. Since then, scientists have been working to develop a vaccine to generate an immunity to this family of viruses.
A vaccine for COVID-19
The development of this vaccine in such a short time is the result of a broad international effort. Since the detection of SRAS, the World Health Organization has made a vaccine one of its clinical research priorities and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has invested resources in the project. Several innovative laboratories already claim to be on the brink of developing a vaccine.
At the moment there are three lines of research that promise short-term results. According to the Vaccine Advisory Committee in Spain, a country which is also collaborating on the research. Vaccines based on specific DNA, inserted into the cells of the host that allow it to produce highly specific antibodies. The production of antigens, by means of a technology that reduces the instability of the expressed antigens (research being done at the University of Queensland in Australia); and the production of mRNA in intracellular proteins. There’s no doubt about it. We will soon be able to vaccinate ourselves.