Researchers at Fiocruz Minas integrate a 30-step off-dutys who joined in the search for vaccines against COVID-19, announced this week, C-TAP (The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool), of which Brazil is a part. O joint effort of scientists has the objective of stopping the advance of the pandemic, which has infected 6 million people and caused 371 thousand deaths worldwide, which is only possible with a vaccine. One of the most promising Brazilian studies, the research to develop a bivalent protection against the coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) and influenza. The research uses a harmless type of influenza virus, capable of generating an immune response against the new coronavirus. Used as a vaccine vector, the virus is modified inside the laboratory to transport part of the virus protein that terrorizes the world.
The study is based on a technique developed by the Viral Disease Immunology Group at Fiocruz Minas and follow several steps: bench study and tests on infected cells, tests on mice and clinical tests on humans. The researchers are in the bench study. Scientific research has been carried out by a team of 12 scientists, which includes researchers who are employees of Fiocruz, master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral students.
To create the substance that can save thousands of Brazilians, researchers use a ruse to trick the new coronavirus. “The influenza virus is modified in such a way that it does not cause disease, but is able to cause the vaccinee to produce antibodies and be protected against both COVID-19 and the flu. This is possible, because we insert a piece of the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2 into a portion of the genetic material of the influenza virus. It is a bivalent vaccine, capable of protecting against two diseases that infect the respiratory tract and are important causes of diseases in the elderly and people who have chronic disease ”, says Alexandre.
Alexandre recalls that science develops collectively. There are about 120 vaccines in the world and at least eight of them are already in the clinical testing phase. So that Brazilian researchers do not just follow, but integrate global efforts in this search. “We are part of the hundreds of vaccines under development. Brazil is part of this network of 30 countries that seek to find a vaccine ”, says Alexandre, who has been researching vaccines for 17 years. He participated in the elaboration of immunizations for toxoplasmosis, Chagas disease and pneumonia caused by pneumococci.
He points out that research in Minas Gerais is in collaboration with studies from the University of So Paulo (USP), Instituto Butantan and Instituto do Corao (Incor). “In other countries, vaccines are more advanced than ours. They’re in phase two or three. But it is important to have, in the long and medium term, a vaccine with national technology that is available on the public network ”, he defends.
The researcher reinforces the importance of funding for science so that viruses do not take humanity by surprise. “The history of mankind is the history of pandemics. With globalization, the spread of pathogens is facilitated ”, he argues. He reinforces the importance of global efforts and says that there is no guarantee that in the future we will not have to deal with another deadly virus. “It is important for scientists to communicate. The exchange of fundamental information, the more we know about the virus, the more conditions we will have to face it ”.
And he makes a metaphor to explain the importance of investing in research: “the path of science is tortuous, I usually say that a dark labyrinth, each scientist illuminates with a torch. The more illuminated, the faster it is possible to get out of the maze. Scientists have to share the light of knowledge. If we don’t have financing, the path is dark ”, he ponders. According to Fiocruz, INCTV projects are financed by the Minas Gerais Research Foundation (Fapemig), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC).