Six macaque monkeys given a trial vaccine from the University of Oxford are coronavirus-free 28 days after sustained exposure to the virus.
The result is a promising early sign for the vaccine, which is also undergoing human trials. However, a working human version remains months away even in the best-case scenario.
The monkey experiment was carried out in late March by government scientists at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, The New York Times reported.
A control group of six macaques was exposed to the virus and fell ill.
Six other macaques were also exposed, but after receiving a vaccine produced by The Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group. They suffered no ill effects, and remain healthy 28 days later, the Times said.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Vincent Munster, the head of the Virus Ecology Unit at the laboratory, told the Times.
The Jenner Institute, working as part of the Oxford Vaccine Group, is leading the global race for a coronavirus vaccine. The UK government has pledged 20 million ($25 million) to the trial.
Sinovac Biotec, a Beijing-based company is also hunting for a vaccine to the coronavirus. It found last week that its vaccine was also effective in macaques . Human trials have now begun.
Humans and macaques share about 93% of their DNA. However, just because a vaccine appears to work on the macaque it does not mean it will work on humans.