June 30, 2022 – Ask the sibling of any celebrity and they’ll tell you they don’t get anywhere near the same attention. The same is true for coronaviruses – the one that causes COVID-19 has been in the spotlight for more than 2 years now, while the others at the moment circulate in relative obscurity.
With the knowledge that any of the other coronaviruses could pose a serious future threat, Pizer and its partner BioNTech announced plans on Wednesday to develop a vaccine that will work against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and the entire class, or family, of related coronaviruses.
Trials in people of this “pan-coronavirus” vaccine are scheduled to start this fall, Reuters reported. The aim of this universal vaccine is to lessen the threat from new variants before they emerge – to provide “durable variant protection.”
“I applaud the sentiment that is long overdue,” said Eric Topol, MD, when asked to comment. “It is crucial that we get ahead of the virus, and the best way is to develop pan-betacoronavirus vaccines that are variant-proof.”
“We had potential to get them into clinical trials many months ago, but this is the first sign it may happen,” said Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research and editor-in-chief for Medscape, WebMD’s sister site for health care professionals.
SARS-CoV-2 is not the first troublemaker in the coronavirus family. SARS, a coronavirus that causes acute respiratory syndrome, emerged in late 2002. A decade later, officials sounded the alarm about the coronavirus behind Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
The coronavirus family is large, but only seven coronavirus types can infect humans, the CDC reports. Most cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract infections, although some people can get pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
Unless you’re a virologist, immunologist, or public health official, you may be unaware that coronaviruses are one of the causes of the common cold, for example.