Most people with COVID-19 have relatively mild disease, but a subset of them develop severe pneumonia and respiratory failure, potentially leading to death. In new research published today in Nature Medicine, immunologist Dan H. Barouch and colleagues at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) demonstrated that the optimal vaccine elicited robust immune response in Syrian golden hamsters and prevented severe clinical disease — including weight loss, pneumonia, and death.
In recently published previous work, Barouch, the William Bosworth Castle Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues showed that a candidate COVID-19 vaccine raised neutralizing antibodies that robustly protected non-human primates (NHPs) against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We recently reported that an Ad26-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provided robust protection in rhesus macaques, and this vaccine is currently being evaluated in humans,” said Barouch, who is director of BIDMC’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research. “However, nonhuman primates typically don’t get severe clinical disease, and thus it was important to study whether this vaccine could prevent severe pneumonia and death due to SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters, which are more susceptible to clinical disease.”