Story at a glance
- People around the world are still waiting to get vaccinated against the coronavirus causing COVID-19.
- A new single-dose vaccine administered in the nose was tested in mice and ferrets.
- Experts found that it protected the animals against lethal infections and potentially against disease transmission as well.
In the U.S., vaccination rates are stalling while people in many other countries are waiting to receive their batches of doses. In the fight against the pandemic, one avenue that is potentially fruitful is a new vaccine that is inhaled rather than injected. In a paper published in Science Advances, researchers report how they tested a new SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in animals that can be given as an inhalant.
Vaccines that can be inhaled are a less common type of vaccine compared to injection and orally administered vaccines, but researchers have been developing it for a while.
“We have been developing this vaccine platform for more than 20 years, and we began working on new vaccine formulations to combat COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic,” said Biao He, a professor in the University of Georgia's Department of Infectious Diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine and a co-leader of the study, in a press release. “Our preclinical data show that this vaccine not only protects against infection, but also significantly reduces the chances of transmission.”
The vaccine is a harmless parainfluenza virus that contains the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. A single dose of the vaccine was given to mice and ferrets intranasally.
The experts discuss in the paper how the vaccine produced a local immune response with antibodies and cellular immunity. The researchers found that it protected against deaths and disease progression into the lower respiratory tract. They also observed that vaccination seemed to prevent disease transmission to the unvaccinated ferrets who were cage mates with the vaccinated ferrets.
The researchers believe that this type of vaccine is important to consider because it is delivered into the upper respiratory tract where the infection occurs. If eventually it is approved for humans, it could be a game changer. Physician Paul McCray, a professor of pediatrics-pulmonary medicine, microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and co-leader of the study, said in the press release, “If this new COVID-19 vaccine proves effective in people, it may help block SARS-CoV-2 transmission and help control the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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