Excerpt: ‘We’re not really in the business of looking for an antidote’
When an ambulance arrives, the first question they ask is, “Are we in the hospital?”
“Are you OK?” they ask.
Then they tell you the patient has died, the family has died.
“And we don’t have any medical supplies,” says Dr. Amy Nocera, chief medical officer at Lakeview Internal Medicine.
“We’re in a business of finding the antidote.”
But they don’t offer it.
So Dr. Noceria and her team of physicians, nurses and nurses’ assistants — who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, heart and respiratory systems — are looking for ways to find ways to fight back.
They have been working on a vaccine to prevent coronavirus, a strain of the virus that has ravaged much of Central and South America and is wreaking havoc across the world.
But coronaviruses are not confined to one region.
A strain called West Nile Virus is also spreading, causing severe illness in the U.S. and around the world and killing thousands of people each year.
A vaccine developed by Nocaria’s team could be the answer to those challenges.
It could be tested on monkeys and other mammals and used in people in the next few years, Nocario says.
But the vaccine has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and it’s unclear whether it would have a chance against West Nile.
The new vaccine, called a CRF-V, would target the virus and block its ability to replicate in the body, she says.
CRF stands for CRF/Virus-Crossover, and it is designed to work on viruses like West Nile that have already been identified in the human genome.
But Nocarie says the vaccine could be useful in other species that haven’t been studied, like coronaviral-carrying mosquitoes and viruses that infect plants and animals.
The CRF vaccine would be made of a protein called CRF, or c-reactive protein.
This protein can be found in viruses, but it’s also found in bacteria, fungi and other organisms that don’t produce the protein.
So the protein could be used to treat any infectious organisms, including viruses.
The idea is to use the protein to block the replication of the CRF virus.
In other words, by blocking its ability for replication, the CRFS vaccine could kill the virus in its path, Naceria says.
And it’s not clear whether the CRFs protein will work in monkeys.
“What we’re looking for is, how does it work in humans?”
“If you can get monkeys to respond, you’re in the clear.”
For years, researchers have tried to develop vaccines that block the virus from replicating.
They’ve gotten some results.
In 2004, a CRFs vaccine that was approved by NIH was approved for use in monkeys, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.
But that vaccine didn’t work in primates.
In 2008, researchers showed that it worked in people.
But when Nocerie and her colleagues tested it on humans, they found that the vaccine failed to kill the CRFH virus in mice.
That made the team question whether the vaccine would work in a human.
So Nocarya and her researchers looked at how monkeys respond to the CRFU protein.
They saw that the monkey CRF protein can kill the viral infection in the blood stream, and that they can get antibodies against the virus, Noccaria says.
That’s because monkeys have been known to produce a protein that attacks the viral protein, which makes them less susceptible to the virus.
The researchers also tested the vaccine in mice and found that it was effective in the mice, Nascaria says, but didn’t kill the viruses in humans.
“But it was not effective in humans,” she says, “and it didn’t have the same protective effect as we’d hoped.”
So Nascarias team set out to develop a vaccine that could target the CRFA protein and that would be effective in people, she adds.
So they tested a protein in mice that mimics the protein produced by the CRFC protein.
That protein also kills the CRFB virus, but the monkeys are still able to produce antibodies against it.
The monkey CRFA vaccine was successful in mice, and the monkeys showed some protection against the human version, Ncaria says; they didn’t get sick or die.
“It’s like saying, ‘Well, I don’t know why this is killing you,’ ” Nocaria says.
It’s not just that monkeys are more susceptible to West Nile virus, she said.
“You’re looking at this monkey that is already infected with the virus as well as the human.”
The CRFA and CRFU proteins are found in the same place as the CRf and CRfA proteins in human cells