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Researchers are a step closer to one vaccine for more than one coronavirus

Lab tests in San Diego are pointing the way to a vaccine that could target multiple versions of the coronavirus, one of which caused the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past two decades, in fact, three coronaviruses have spurred deadly global outbreaks, including SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012.

Research at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology has found that the human immune system could have stopped those and many more, if it had the help of the right vaccine.


“You don’t know which coronavirus may hit you. But nevertheless, the vaccine should work because you focused your response on the things that are not changing from one coronavirus to the next,” said Alessandro Sette, a professor of biological sciences at the La Jolla Institute.

Coronaviruses share protein sequences that our immune system can recognize and target.

“The idea is that if we can identify those parts of the virus that are conserved in all the different viruses, then the vaccine should work against all the different viruses,” Sette said.

Of the coronavirus outbreaks we have seen in the past two decades, COVID-19 and MERS are ongoing. COVID-19 has been by far the most deadly, having killed nearly 7 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Sette said his current goal is to gather more data and possibly move beyond just the coronavirus, perhaps to influenza or the Zika virus.


“To go to other viral families that are of potential concern, that could mediate a future pandemic,” he said

He says nobody wants another pandemic, and a vaccine that could hit more than one target should be pursued, whatever the virus is.