Scientists call for ‘pan-virus vaccines’ to prevent next pandemic

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The swift development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines was in part due to the structure of the virus. Future viruses that could cause pandemics may be more “evasion-strong.”

Investing in the development of vaccines that can respond to a wide variety of virus mutations is key to preparedness, scientists argue.

Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, CA, have published a commentary arguing that governments should invest in new vaccine technology to help in the fight against future pandemics.

In the article, which appears in the journal Nature, the experts suggest that vaccines that make use of “broadly neutralizing antibodies” could target numerous strains of a virus family, such as coronaviruses or influenza.

This could offer comprehensive protection against particularly dangerous viral strains that may emerge in the future.

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The current Covid-19 pandemic is a recent example of the dangers that easily transmissible and potentially deadly viruses pose to humans.

Scientists note that pandemics have been increasing over the last 20 years. Researchers suggest this is driven in part by land-use change such as deforestation and intensive farming practices.

These can bring wild animals into closer proximity with humans and livestock, increasing the risk of zoonotic viruses crossing between species.

And until the world’s governments respond to these underlying factors, pandemics will pose a significant risk.

However, in their new commentary, Dr. Dennis R. Burton and Dr. Eric J. Topol argue that one way of dealing with this threat is investing in vaccine technologies that can respond to a wide variety of virus types.

They claim this is particularly urgent because the rapid development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines was in part possible due to the structure of the virus. Future viruses may not be so amenable to rapid vaccine development using conventional technologies.

SARS-CoV-2 has a large attachment site, through which it replicates itself within the host organism’s cells.