A new method to improve the efficacy of a vaccine against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is reported in Nature Communications this week. This research might also aid the design of better vaccines against a range of viral infections.
Vaccines are composed of viral proteins that immunise patients against a potential infection. However, some of the proteins found inside vaccines do not contribute to an immune response, and therefore decrease efficiency of vaccination. Fang Li and colleagues have developed a new approach to identify which of these components are least effective at eliciting an immune reaction. They do this by masking individual proteins so that they can’t be recognised by the immune system, and then measuring the resulting immune response in mice.
They test their approach in 18 mice infected with the MERS virus and show that they can identify the vaccine that offers the best protection against the virus.
These initial results are encouraging, and the authors suggest that if they can be extended to other viruses, the approach could help improve the design of vaccines against infections such as influenza, Ebola or HIV.