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Monkeys known to invade Florida could have clues to a COVID-19 vaccine

Two studies suggest immunity from reinfection could be the key to surviving COVID-19.

TAMPA, Fla. — Rhesus macaque monkeys are no strangers to Florida. The herpes-infected primates have already invaded parts of the state. Now, two studies are linking those same monkeys to a potential breakthrough in the treatment of coronavirus.

Two peer-reviewed studies published in Science Magazine suggest being immune from reinfection is the key to surviving COVID-19. In one study, nine of the monkeys were infected with the coronavirus. Once they recovered, scientists infected the monkeys again, but none of them got sick.

The second study involved two-dozen rhesus macaques. Half of them were given a vaccine created with antibodies from recovered coronavirus patients. The other half were not. Then all the monkeys were infected with COVID-19. The monkeys who received the vaccine before getting sick experienced far less severe symptoms than those who did not. Some vaccinated monkeys experienced no symptoms at all.

While the studies don't prove humans can develop immunity to coronavirus, researchers agree it's promising. Scientists also want to study how long that developed immunity could last.  

Researchers have been focused on antibodies of the coronavirus in development for a vaccine. Antibody testing is done on people who have recovered from COVID-19 to determine if their bodies are creating natural responses to the virus, which could be used in the creation of a vaccine. The process is similar to how the flu vaccine is created each year. 

RELATED: Oxford COVID-19 vaccine reportedly shows success protecting monkeys from virus

RELATED: Florida's herpes-infected monkey population grows -- and that's bad news for people

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