Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a global concern due to its high fatality rate, killing nearly 40% of those infected. Global deployments to the Middle East and South Korea, coupled with close living quarters in those situations, increase MERS exposure risk for military personnel.
MERS is a severe respiratory disease akin to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has infected more than 1,600 people. The most common symptoms of this disease are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Older people and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for severe disease and death. There are currently no approved vaccines or specific treatments for MERS.
WRAIR initiated and completed the first-in-human, and still only, Phase I trial of a MERS-CoV vaccine candidate intended for use in humans.
EIDB conducted the study at the WRAIR Clinical Trials Center, evaluating a candidate DNA vaccine (GLS-5300) co-developed by GeneOne Life Science Inc. and Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Though other vaccine candidates had previously been tested for use in camels, which are the suspected source of the coronavirus which causes MERS, this vaccine was the first to be tested in humans.
In 2017, study results were published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, which showed the vaccine candidate was safe, well-tolerated, and induced a robust immune response. A Phase 2 clinical trial in the Middle East, with support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), is expected to advance by the end of 2020.
Assessing the MERS Threat in CENTCOM
EIDB has partnered with the Jordanian Armed Forces Royal Medical Services to evaluate region-specific threat of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI). The ultimate focus of this research is to enhance essential capabilities for the development and evaluation of MERS countermeasures, which originated and continues to circulate in the Kingdom of Jordan, a key ally in establishing and maintaining regional security.
EIDB was awarded $1 million from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Coalition Warfare Program (CWP) to support the SARI project. Among all awards, the proposal from EIDB is the only medical- or public health-related project ever selected. The study will fall under EIDB’s Partnership for Research in the Middle East (PRIME) [link] initiative.