COVID Vaccine - A Scientific Challenge Against Nature’s Distress
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December 2019 has created history in the form of a viral infection, which has caused a larger global spread in the name of COVID-19. COVID virus belongs to the family of Human Corona virus (hCoVs). Viruses namely, 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 are four relatively gentle strains belonging to hCoVs. The typical symptoms of these viral strains come in the months of winter and spring. The main symptoms of these viruses include rise in body temperature, running nose and fever with chills following sore throat.

Corona virus has evolved itself from its older generations like SARS-CoV which caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Then almost after a decade it came into existence in 2012 as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Now almost 7 years later, a new variant in the name of COVID-19 has emerged thereby creating a deadly disease.

WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic on 11th march 2020. This nCoV19 has a world wide spread causing millions of deaths and raising alarms of a viral terror among the general public. Within a shorter period, this COVID virus has travelled a longer distance by reaching almost all the countries except for Antartica. Due to the number of death without any probability of age, sex, geriatric and health care providers, COVID has affected the entire population en mass thereby provoking WHO to cultivate an anti COVID remedy in the form of COVID vaccine as an emergency in order to curb the anxiety levels among general public.

Healthcare providers, academicians, research specialists and laboratory experts are working day and night to find out the best possible way to bring this outrage pandemic to a halt. As the immune system is novel to the COVID virus, researchers believe that there is no way that humans can develop natural immunity against COVID virus. Thus a process of vaccine developmental research for COVID virus has been started at a greater pace where many pharmaceutical companies are working at their best to generate a suitable COVID vaccine.

Issues with COVID Vaccine Development

The novel corona virus has got four structural proteins namely, the spike(S), nucleocapsid (N), envelope (E) and membrane (M). These proteins facilitate the antibodies to attach over the corona virus thereby neutralising the virus. The S and N are the main proteins that bring about an immune response in humans against COVID-19 infection. The main antibodies that produce a response are IgG and IgM. IgM shows an immediate response to the antigen, thus it can be confirm with rapid antigen diagnostic tests. Delayed response will be seen with IgG production and it will be confirmed with RT-PCR diagnostic tests. Serum antibody diagnostic tests with IgM, IgA and IgG are also available as they show the virus past and present habitation in the human body.

The main hurdle for COVID vaccine production is the nCoV cross sensitivity. The COVID virus owns similarity with other viruses belonging to the corona virus family namely SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-HKU1. Most of these virus have similar respiratory flu like symptoms but they are not identical with their infectivity. This indicates that the actual vaccine production for COVID-19 virus is a challenge as the virus presents with greater mutation potential by changing its infective capacity and presents itself with mild flu like symptoms.

The vaccine production is a lengthy process and it may take a decade to produce a proper effective vaccine against the COVID-19 virus. Due to raising global political pressures, impatience and panic among general public following a scare of economic depleting global lockdown circumstances, it has become an emergency to generate a medicine in the form of a vaccine that may curb this pandemic thereby getting the situation into a normalcy.

COVID Vaccine Generation

Different approaches are being tried in order to produce a vaccine fast against the COVID-19 virus. All these measures taken are against the normal protocol that follows during a vaccine production, thus increasing the risk of human safety. Although researchers are doing phase I trials, clinical human trials running parallel with animals, there is no such evidence of animal deaths reported with corona virus, which again puts us under a distress about the vaccine validation process.

The following are the COVID virus vaccines under process

  • A Viral Vector Vaccine: The virus such as Measles and Adenovirus are engineered genetically so that they produced corona virus proteins inside a human body, these are weakened viruses. eg: BCG virus, it has failed to produce any such active response against COVID virus.
  • Nucleic Acid Vaccine: A part of the virus surface or a whole virus with RNA and DNA has been tried to produce corona virus proteins in order to get an immune response in healthy volunteers.
  • Protein Based Vaccines: Few scientists are directly injecting corona virus proteins into the human body in the form of a fragment protein or protein shells that resembles the outer coat of corona virus.

Main challenges faced by the vaccine research organisations

  1. Inadequate time period spent with novel mRNA and DNA platforms of corona virus.
  2. Risks associated with financing such a new vaccine production, where lots of uncertainty exists with its efficiency.
  3. Hard time convincing the volunteers for novel COVID vaccine testing, as there will be added risk for human life.
  4. Most of the countries are trying their best to produce country owned cultured novel vaccine as a political struggle, which may turn as a placebo for other countries.

Conclusion

Healthcare providers in the form of laboratory researchers, scientists and academicians are chasing their goal to produce an emergency vaccine to restrain this COVID-19 Pandemic. The human fight with natures outrage continues as the researches have fact tracked each and every step during the vaccine production as they hope the vaccine may be ready within 18 months of the pandemic outbreak.

With the early arrival of the COVID-19 diagnostic tests, researchers are optimistic about the COVID vaccine discovery but the Data Safety Monitory Board (DSMB) worry about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy under a larger population as the phase III clinical trials are under process.

The best way to stay safe from this pandemic is by bringing awareness among people about the virus spread, following strict social distancing, wearing proper face masks and practicing personal hygiene with hand sanitisation which may help an individual to contain the spread of novel corona virus.

Dr Syed Ahmed Raheel
BDS, MDS. Reader and Incharge, HOD, Department of Oral Medicine. KGF college of dental sciences

    Dr. Ritu Singh

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