A spray vaccine against Covid-19 is being studied

A spray vaccine against Covid-19 is being studied

A group of researchers is working on a spray based on the use of phages, or particular, harmless viruses that help us react against the coronavirus

(illustration: Getty Images) The search for new vaccines against the coronavirus does not give up. A US group is developing an inhaled Covid-19 vaccine based on a simple, low-cost spray. It is not the first time that this type of approach has been talked about and several researches on new potential anti-Covid sprays are already underway, for now on animals, often with first favorable data. The strategies adopted by the team, which includes Rice, Rutgers and Northeastern University, are two and both have proven to be effective. In fact, vaccination in mice stimulated the immune response linked to the production of antibodies. The results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

From the spray to the subcutaneous, with the use of phages

The new approach is based on the use of bacteriophages , or simply phages, or viruses that exclusively infect bacteria and that exploit these microorganisms to replicate and spread without any kind of harm to us. The first strategy consists in a spray based on these particular completely harmless viruses. The authors made sure that the phages had a small fragment of an element of the virus on the surface, in particular the Sars-Cov-2 spike protein, which serves to induce an immune system reaction and to cause the formation of specific antibodies.

The idea behind the product to be inhaled is to create a barrier, at the pulmonary level, which defends against any coronavirus attacks. The second strategy involves the administration, by subcutaneous injection, of these same phages which contain the information needed to stimulate the immune system against Sars-Cov-2.

Both formulations chosen (the spray and the subcutaneous injection) have been shown to produce high levels of specific antibodies against the coronavirus. Although preliminary, given that it is conducted only on animals, this kind of investigation opens the door to new research perspectives against Covid-19 based on the practical and low-cost use of phages. "These are two valid approaches - the authors write in the publication - for the development of a new vaccine prototype".

The strengths

Scientists also focus on the advantages practical of the new prototype, from the resistance and the product to its stability at room temperature, from the simplicity of the platform that is used to make it up to the low costs for rapid and large-scale production. The idea, the researchers explain, is that in the future a vaccine of this kind could be easily accessible even to countries that have less economic resources. Recalling, as also pointed out by the authorities, that only if the whole world gets vaccinated will it be possible to contain the infection and effectively fight the pandemic.

But there is another strong element. The spike protein administered via the spray or subcutaneously may contain several tiny pieces of the part of the virus that serve to activate the immune system. And these fragments can be adapted gradually over time, in a simple way, in order to provide protection even against the new variants of the coronavirus. In other words, in theory, the product can be changed rapidly, as is the case with mRna vaccines, in order to cover a wider range of viral forms. Everything is for now only on paper and it will be necessary to conduct various other researches - the experimentation is long, by now we know - to obtain a new vaccine.

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