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Pitt Researchers Attach Coronavirus To Genetically Modified Measles Vaccine

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The University of Pittsburgh's Center for Vaccine Research has been on the cutting edge of work being done with coronavirus.

Important progress is being made in our backyard.

Dr. Paul Duprex, Ph.D. is the Director of the CVR at Pitt. He explains why this work is critical in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

"We don't have very many anti-viral drugs compared to the number of drugs we have for bacteria," explains Duprex, a native of Northern Ireland.

"Remember, bacteria and viruses are very different. So antibiotics, people often think antibiotics will work on viruses, and they don't."

That is why the work being done inside these Biocontainment Labs at the University of Pittsburgh is critical.

These scientists received a small sample of the virus from the Centers for Disease control last month. They successfully grew and rapidly multiplied the number of virus particles. Those samples were used by clinicians to develop tests for coronavirus and to help researchers work on stopping the spread.

Duprex explains how the virus spreads inside the body: "The virus has proteins on the outside, and it attaches to the cell. That allows the virus to bind to the surface of the cell and liberate the contents, the genetic contents, which are inside the virus inside the cell."


The virus kills the cell and releases ten, 50 or perhaps 100 additional virus particles into the body. The virus then attacks other healthy cells and starts to spread very quickly.

"That's why viral infections become so rapid because it is not one cell making one virus. It's one cell making many viruses," says Duprex.

The Center for Vaccine Research at Pitt now has successfully taken a portion of the virus that leads to COVID-19 and attached it to a genetically modified measles vaccine that has been used for years.

CVR now has proof of principal that you can put something from SARS into the measles vaccine.

The next step is to inject it and test it on animals. If those animal tests are successful, clinical trials in humans could begin.

"Our job is to work on the virus. We will do that," says Duprex.

But Duprex says all of us can use social distancing and lay low to help scientists do their work: "The community's job is to be sensible. Be careful. Be prudent. Be wise, and all of that will make Pittsburgh better and a safer place."

More information on the Coronavirus pandemic:

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