DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A coronavirus vaccine designed to protect against three different deadly strains, developed by researchers at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, has shown success in recent mouse studies.

“We are making important progress toward a broadly protective coronavirus vaccine,” said senior author Kevin O. Saunders, Ph.D., associate director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. “These are pathogens that cause or have the potential to cause significant human infections and loss of life, and a single vaccine that provides protection could slow down or even prevent another pandemic.”

Saunders and colleagues built the tri-valent vaccine using a nanoparticle that contains a fragment called a receptor binding domain from different COVID-19 strains. The fragment provides enough information for immune cells to build an effective response against the actual COVID-19 virus when it enters the body.

In early studies with mice and primates, researchers say that the nanoparticle vaccine was effective against multiple variants. Human tests are planned next year for a version that carries immunogens to different strains, including those that have dominated since the original outbreak in 2019.

Researchers also the vaccinated mice did not grow sick when challenged with different strains of the virus.

“This study demonstrates proof-of-concept that a single vaccine that protects against both MERS and SARS viruses is an achievable goal,” Saunders said. “Given that one MERS and two SARS viruses have infected humans in the last two decades, the development of universal coronavirus vaccines is a global health priority.”

The study received funding support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (U54 CA260543, P01 AI158571).