Researchers’ Aim: One Vaccine for Many Viruses

Illustration by Lauren Biagini

Whether it’s one shot to prevent measles or another to stave off COVID-19, vaccines can add up to an impressive number of jabs in the arm (or elsewhere) over the years. But what if one shot could provide protection against hundreds of viruses at once, from polio to the common cold?

A new study by George Belov, associate professor of veterinary medicine, is looking to make that reality in the fight against enteroviruses, which cause a number of serious health conditions. He’s focusing not on what makes each virus unique, as is frequently the case with vaccine research, but what they have in common. He compares them to nuts:

“You have the shell or husk, and then the material inside the husk,” he says. “On the outside, the structural proteins look sufficiently different so that that immune response developed against one virus does not work against another. But inside, you have pretty much the same core of proteins the virus uses to replicate.”

Using new technology to target that core, the research (conducted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Vaccines Research and Review) aims to present only those common antigens to our immune systems—greatly simplifying vaccine development and resulting in fewer trips to see the doc.


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