COVID-19 vaccines were developed at record speed, but only because decades of research on other coronavirus vaccines had already been done, enabling simultaneous animal and human testing in some cases. The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson released animal testing results demonstrating safety and efficacy for their vaccines.
A vaccine developed at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research now in clinical trials may serve as either a primary COVID-19 vaccine or as a universal booster for other COVID-19 vaccines that use different technology, says Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch. The vaccine is based on multifaceted proteins that train the immune system to recognize various coronavirus strains and variants and "provided broad, potent protection in animal studies," says EIDB Deputy Director Paul Scott.
Veterinary pharmaceutical company Avimex is developing a COVID-19 vaccine based on avian Newcastle disease virus. Clinical trials are expected to begin soon, and Mexican officials say the Avimex vaccine could be approved for emergency use in the country by the end of the year.
Syrian hamsters given a human monoclonal antibody and challenged with the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 had significantly less infectious virus in their lungs than hamsters given a control mAB in a study posted on bioRxiv prior to peer review. The antibody, which was isolated from a person who recovered from COVID-19, targets a receptor-binding domain site on coronaviruses and could be used alone or in combination with other mABs as the basis for a pan-coronavirus vaccine.
The human immune response to the tick-borne encephalitis virus is dominated by ineffective antibodies, but scientists have identified potent antibodies in people who recovered, and prophylactic and therapeutic administration of the potent VH3-48 antibody protected mice from lethal infection with TBE virus and from other tick-borne flaviviruses including Powassan. A vaccine that induces production of the VH3-48 antibody could be more effective and easier to use than currently available vaccines, researchers wrote in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Scientists are studying whether harnessing specific microbiota in the gut or simply promoting gut health can boost immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens. A study in monkeys found that SARS-CoV-2 changes the gut microbiome and causes a decline in bacterial species that make short-chain fatty acids that travel through the bloodstream and protect mice from respiratory viruses, while other studies in mice have shown that exercise also improves SCFA levels, which could prevent complications of COVID-19 caused by a leaky gut.
A 3-month-old puppy in Connecticut that did not show signs of illness but died unexpectedly tested positive for the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant circulating in the US late last year. People appear to be able to transmit the virus to animals during close contact, and anyone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets, livestock and wildlife, the CDC says.
Public health agencies in British Columbia and Quebec are running a study on cats in the homes of people diagnosed with COVID-19 to see whether cats are susceptible to or can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to people. A veterinarian and veterinary technician will collect cats placed by the owner in a carrier and take nasal, rectal and blood samples in a tent set up onsite to keep the cat secure, and sampling won't be done on cats that are not amenable, says Public Health Veterinarian Erin Fraser.
A panel of ethics and legal experts found that neural organoids, neural transplants in animals and chimeras are "powerful models" for research with "strong moral arguments in favor," and current rules and oversight are adequate. Neural organoids lack the cells for consciousness, but neural transplants into nonhuman primates may require oversight by specialized animal care committees following a tiered supervision framework, the panel said.
FBR's newest initiative, FBR Real Pet Stories, showcases some of our favorite pets and their health stories. Yes - animal research benefits animals, too. Featured pets include a rescue dog named Cleo diagnosed with CVD, a kitty named Echo that was saved twice thanks to animal research, and a dog named Big Jack that survived renal dysplasia. Read their stories.
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The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) is the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to improving human and animal health by promoting public understanding and support for biomedical research. Our mission is to educate people about the essential role animal research plays in the quest for medical advancements, treatments and cures for both people and animals.