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COVID-19 Vaccine Being Tested On Monkeys Shows Encouraging Results

The director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US has said no corners will be cut in the search for a coronavirus vaccine.

But now, there's encouraging news about a potential vaccine being tested on humans and monkeys.

NIH researchers in Montana, U.S. tested the vaccine using six rhesus macaque monkeys. They said the monkeys that got the vaccine developed protective antibodies against the coronavirus.

But it's what happened next that's giving the doctors hope. When they exposed the animals to coronavirus, the monkeys that weren't vaccinated developed pneumonia, a sign of COVID-19. But those that got the vaccine, and developed the protective antibodies, had no pneumonia and no virus in their lungs.

"Why isn't it enough to show that a vaccine elicits, say, an antibody response?" asked CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

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"We need to know that it protects the animal or the human from the infection," said Dr. Kathryn Edwards, who directs vaccine research at Vanderbilt University.

"And just having the antibody, if it doesn't work to prevent disease, it's not going to cut it."

The vaccine used in the study is being developed by Oxford University. It relies on a cold virus that's been modified so it can't spread infection.

The vaccine is packed with genetic material from the coronavirus -- and once injected, it triggers an immune response, teaching the body to recognise and fight a future infection.

Oxford professor of human genetics Adrian Hill said if the virus works, it has another important benefit. "This is not a hugely difficult vaccine to make," he said. "So large scale is feasible, we believe."

A different study has shown that rhesus monkeys and humans have about 93 percent of their DNA in common. But researchers won't be celebrating until there's a vaccine that's safe and effective in people.