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The UK trial is the next step in the development of a vaccine to protect people against MERS – a deadly viral illness with no current vaccines and the potential to cause a pandemic.

This is the third Phase I clinical trial of the ChAdOx1 MERS vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Pandemic Sciences Institute. It is the first trial in older people.

MERS is a viral illness caused by MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – from the same viral family as COVID-19 – with no approved vaccines or treatments currently available. Outbreaks can start when the virus spreads from camels to humans, with up to a third of all infections proving fatal.

First identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, previous outbreaks have occurred in the Middle East and South Korea, with a case reported in Abu Dhabi in July 2023 and cases from the past year in Saudi Arabia reported in August 2023. The World Health Organization recognises MERS as a priority infectious disease that requires urgent research to develop vaccines.

The University of Oxford started to develop a vaccine against MERS using the ChAdOx1 platform before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was this research that paved the way for such rapid development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in 2020, which has saved an estimated 6 million lives worldwide. This underlines the need for continued global funding and focus on vaccine development for lesser-known diseases.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford’s Pandemic Sciences Institute and developer of the ChAdOx1 MERS vaccine said: “This trial is an important step in the development of a vaccine against MERS coronavirus.

Read the full story on the Pandemic Sciences Institute website.

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