Nasal vaccine could be key to limiting spread of COVID-19 – The Hill

Story at a glance


  • The nasal vaccine could be another weapon in the arsenal against COVID-19.

  • Early research has shown promising results in terms of effectiveness.

  • Recent research published in Science Immunology suggests that pairing mRNA vaccines with an intranasal booster vaccine can provide much stronger protection against the virus in the airways where it enters the body.

As Americans continue to live with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — and the highly contagious version of the virus currently spreading across the country — researchers and public health officials are looking to a new generation of vaccines.

Just last week, federal health officials and vaccine manufacturers gathered at the White House Summit on the future of COVID-19 vaccines, agreeing that innovative vaccines that are more effective in preventing infection and protecting against potential variants are needed.

The peak occurred as the United States experienced another surge in coronavirus cases, driven by two new variants of the omicron variant, BA.4 and BA.5, both variants of the highly infectious omicron variant. Early evidence shows that the subvariants are better at evading prior immunity, which means that people who have immunity to either vaccines or a previous COVID infection are susceptible.

During the summit, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci called for two “pillars” for the next generation of vaccines, which include developing a vaccine against the Corona virus to help limit the spread of variants and a nasal vaccine that can be inhaled rather than injected.


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Currently, most studies of intranasal COVID-19 vaccines are still in their early stages. But early research has shown promising results in terms of effectiveness.

A viable nasal vaccine may be key to preventing the spread of the virus. While current COVID-19 mRNA vaccines stimulate strong immunity in the blood, preventing severe disease, research has indicated that the antibody response in the airways where the virus enters the body may be lacking, especially when it comes to the Omicron sub-strain.

Recent research published in Science Immunology indicates that coupling mRNA vaccines with an intranasal booster vaccine can provide much stronger protection against the virus as it enters the body, thus limiting its spread and preventing infection penetration.

“The omicron variant almost completely escaped neutralizing mucosal antibodies in individuals who received mRNA vaccines in previously infected individuals,” said Ji Sun, professor of medicine at the University of Virginia and one of the study’s authors.

“We believe that strong respiratory antibody responses will neutralize the virus immediately upon entry when an individual is infected with the virus, preventing the spread of the viral infection and thus transmission to others.”

For the study, the researchers showed that mice given the mRNA vaccine experienced a good antibody response in the blood but not good mucosal immunity. However, when a nasal booster was administered, the researchers observed a “very strong” mucosal immune response against all SARS-CoV-2 variants tested. Sun said using vaccines in tandem has the potential to stop a viral infection immediately.

“Since most of the population has already had the mRNA vaccine or been exposed to or infected with COVID, all we need probably is to provide a nasal booster to attract this pre-existing immunity to the surface of the mucosa. So it is as if we had a man at the door to stop any bad guys. from entering the building immediately.”

But Sun cautioned that more research is needed, and it’s too early to say whether the results observed in animal models will translate to humans.

Many candidate nasal vaccines are being developed, but most studies at the moment are still in their early stages, and there are very few human trials. Sun said it will likely take two years before a nasal vaccine is available to the public.

Hope it works in humans. Nobody knows now.”

Posted on August 02, 2022

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