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The Oxford vaccine is made by taking a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees
- A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo -



Published Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Oxford covid-19 vaccine follows its
programmed genetic instructions,
analysis finds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services

A team at Bristol University has used recently developed techniques to validate that the vaccine accurately follows the genetic instructions programmed into it by the Oxford team.

The AstraZeneca Oxford covid-19 vaccine, now undergoing Phase III clinical trials, has already undergone rigorous testing to ensure the highest standards of quality and safety. Now a team at Bristol University has used recently developed techniques to further validate the vaccine. This novel analysis provides even greater clarity and detail about how the vaccine successfully provokes a strong immune response.

The findings, led by scientists at the University of Bristol represent the most in-depth analysis of any of the covid-19 vaccine candidates, going significantly above and beyond any regulatory requirements anywhere in the world.

Work on the vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began in January 2020. Now undergoing Phase III clinical trials by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, the Bristol researchers’ focus was to assess how often and how accurately the vaccine is copying and using the genetic instructions provided by the Oxford team. These instructions detail how to make the spike protein from the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 that causes covid-19.

The Oxford vaccine is made by taking a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees and deleting about 20 percent of the virus’s instructions. This means it is impossible for the vaccine to replicate or cause disease in humans. But, it can still be produced in the laboratory under special conditions. By removing these genetic instructions there is space to add the instructions for the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2. Once inside a human cell the genetic instructions for the spike protein need to be ’photocopied’ many times – a process known as transcription. In any vaccine system, it is these ’photocopies’ that are directly used to make large amounts of the spike protein.

Once the spike protein is made, the immune system will react to it and this pre-trains the immune system to identify a real covid-19 infection. So, when the person vaccinated is confronted with the SARS-CoV-2 virus their immune system is pre-trained and ready to attack it.

Adenoviruses have been used for many years to make vaccines, and these are always tested to very high standards to make sure every batch of vaccine has the correct copy of genetic instructions embedded in the vaccine. However, thanks to very recent advances in genetic sequencing and protein analysis technology, researchers at Bristol were for the first time also able to directly check thousands and thousands of the ‘photocopied’ instructions produced by the Oxford vaccine within a cell.

In this way they were able to directly validate that the instructions are copied correctly and accurately, providing greater assurance that the vaccine is performing exactly as programmed.

At the same time, the researchers checked the spike protein being made by the vaccine inside human cells also accurately reflects the instructions as programmed. This brand-new approach may be more routinely used in the future to help researchers fine-tune the performance of these kinds of vaccines.

The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, BBSRC, the United States Food and Drug Administration, US FDA, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, EPSRC.

While the research continues for a covid-19 vaccine, the virus continues to infect and kill people worldwide.

According to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, CSSE, at Johns Hopkins University, the covid-19 virus has killed 1,165,379 patients worldwide.

Meanwhile, the contagion of covid-19 continues to quickly spread all over the country. The Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday the following updated statistics of the covid-19 contagion in the country:

862 new covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 39,587 active cases.

16,837 foreign-born people have been infected with a total of 105,322 cases since March, approximately 16% of the total cases. Of these, authorities confirmed the death of 32 foreign-born patients.

• 498 patients are being treated in public hospitals, where 195 patients are in ICU’s in delicate health conditions (ages range from a 1-year-old to a 93-year-old). And 303 patients are in recovery rooms. Many of the remaining infected patients are quarantined in their homes.

• 64,406 coronavirus patients have fully recovered, which is a 61.2% recovery rate of the total cases since March.

1,329 deaths of people infected with covid-19, approximately 1.3% death rate of the total cases since March. Of these 509 women and 820 men. The ages range from a 9-year-old to a 100-year-old person.

Since Friday, Oct. 16, authorities stopped providing the updated statistics on people who have been ruled out and the number of medical covid-19 tests that have been made.

Readers can see the updated number of total patients in each district at the National Distance Education University on its Covid-19 Map.

Should governments guarantee free access to the covid-19 vaccine?
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