The first vaccine candidate for Middle-East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has shown promising results in animal trials.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine showed the vaccine to be effective in protecting camels and monkeys from the disease, paving the way for trials in humans.

MERS has only been known to infect humans since 2012 and has killed 500 people in that time – but there are no specific treatments for the disease. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. The most recent outbreak took place in South Korea in May.

The candidate is a synthetic DNA vaccine. Instead of directly injecting an antigen, this type of inoculation injects a DNA sequence that causes the patient’s own body to produce an MERS antigen.

The researchers, led by the University of Pennsylvania, say DNA vaccines’ potential for rapid, large-scale production may help overcome the problem of support for vaccine development ‘drying up’ after major outbreaks.