The UK's biggest Covid-19 vaccine project, currently being tested by the University of Oxford, has shown some promising results in a small study with monkeys.
Researchers involved with the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 trials said the vaccine had shown signs of priming the rhesus macaque monkeys' immune systems to fend off the deadly virus and showed no indications of adverse effects.
According to the study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, a single vaccination dose was also effective in preventing damage to the lungs – organs that can be severely affected by the virus.
"A single vaccination with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 induced a humoral and cellular immune response in rhesus macaques," the authors said.
"We observed a significantly reduced viral load in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and respiratory tract tissue of vaccinated animals challenged with SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) compared with control animals, and no pneumonia was observed in vaccinated rhesus macaques," they said.
The researchers found that after being exposed to high levels of the novel coronavirus, none of the six monkeys that were given the vaccine developed viral pneumonia. Also, there was no sign that the vaccine had made the animals more vulnerable.
The development has been welcomed as encouraging signs for a vaccine currently undergoing human trials but experts warn that it remains to be seen if it is as effective in humans.
"These results support the ongoing clinical trial of the vaccine in humans, the results of which are eagerly awaited," said Dr Penny Ward, visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King's College London.
Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute who is leading the research, has previously said she has a "high degree of confidence" in the vaccine.
"Of course, we have to test it and get data from humans. We have to demonstrate it actually works and stop
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