Updates on Covid-19 research: This was a response to a question about herd immunity and whether we will be able to achieve that.
Howdy folks! Yep, I hold a PhD in microbiology/virology, and postdoc research in neurosci.
There's a lot that we don't know about this virus. However, some people (at least) are having very robust immune reactions and produce lots of antibodies.
Serum/gammaglobulin from these people is being used in NYC to treat patients to excellent effect. This confirms the presence of neutralizing antibodies.
There's also no evidence that Covid-19 infects the thymus, which is how HIV weeds out neutralizing antibodies and is thus nearly impossible to mount an antibody resistance to.
Coronaviruses are notoriously difficult to immunize against because the antibody response degrades withing weeks or months. However, research suggests that regular CVs infect only the upper respiratory tract.
However, ab to SARS, which is quite probably a better model than the seasonal “cold-virus” type coronas, peak at 4 months and decline after 3 years.
Covid-19 infects the upper and lower respiratory tracts, the digestive system, maybe the brain and heart, so it makes sense that it would provoke a much more robust immune response than a seasonal cold-type CV.
Once we have a good vaccine (more on that below,) we will deploy it.
Mostly likely, we would deploy the vaccine now and hit everyone we can to act as a fire break, or herd immunity.
Then, we would routinely monitor for outbreaks and do contact tracing, then vaccinate the population in rings around an outbreak. This strategy is how we exterminated smallpox.
(I have to say this carefully so the SEC doesn't come after me because I'm not a politician, but I am acting as an unpaid virology adviser to a guy on the leadership team at a pharm co who is paying me in sexual favors. I'm listening in to proprietary calls. But I think I can cite published papers freely.)
The NIAID is already in Phase 1 trials for almost a month now with an mRNA vaccine. This vax type is not an inactivated or attenuated virus, but just a gene (I think it's 2 viral genes) that are expressed by your own cells and provoke an immune response.
The question is whether this vax will be effective to produce *neutralizing* antibodies for a variety of reasons, including the lack of other viral proteins to post-translationally modify or produce the right 3* or 4* structure for the vps. So, they may be in a non-native conformation that does not produce neutralizing antibodies. If it doesn't work, we can add or swap other viral proteins for the vaccine. Eventually, it is highly likely that we will get a vax that works, and it will probably be within 3 months.
However, an mRNA vaccine would be incredibly safe, like 0 risk of GBS and other responses, and could not produce the infection.
Also, an mRNA vax is not produced in eggs. It's produced in a lab. This means that there would not be a months-long lag period like with flu virus. Vax doses would be produced within days of FDA approval, if not hours, and keep rolling off the line. Also, no problem for people with egg allergies.