Lancaster University team develops new nasal vaccine which could help end COVID-19 pandemic

Lancaster University academics today unveiled research on a new nasal vaccine which could block transmission of the COVID-19 virus and transform the international battle against the virus.

Lancaster University researchers say a new intranasal vaccine, the result of international collaboration, offers the hope of blocking COVID-19.

They said today that their research to create a vaccine which can be easily administered through the nose has taken a major step forward.

Pre-clinical animal trials of the vaccine saw a reduction in the impact of the disease itself and transmission of the virus.

Lancaster University Virologist Dr Muhammad Munir

If trials on humans go as hoped it would open the door to ending the pandemic across the world and address vaccine inequalitites.

Their findings have been published today in the journal iScience.

Virologist and biomedicine lecturer Dr Muhammad Munir led the study. His team of scientists from Lancaster University have been working in collaboration with researchers from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, USA.

Dr Munir said: "We know that current vaccines are incredible at stopping hospitalisation and death. The next generation of vaccines are required to block the transmission. This vaccine is certainly blocking transmission in pre-clinical studies...If you can block the transmission so that the disease does not progress that's how you can end the pandemic. That's the primary objective."

He said a nasal vaccine would be ideal for those who cannot have existing vaccines for medical reasons and who are needle phobic. It would also help with supply issues,as expert staff and extra equipment are not required to administer it. He compared the single use vaccine's ease of administration to being like using a hay fever spray, which in the global perspective would enable a quicker delivery of vaccines and overcome issues around the availability of syringes and other supplies and their disposal.

He added: "It's very exciting."

It is hoped to proceed to human trials within the next two months and Dr Munir said: "It will be extremely safe."

Researchers immunised hamsters with two doses of the vaccine. The hamsters had complete protection from lung infection, inflammation and pathological lesions following exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Two doses of the intranasal vaccine were found to significantly reduce the virus “shedding” from the nose and lungs of the hamsters – suggesting the vaccine has the potential to control infection at the site of inoculation. Experts say preventing both clinical disease and virus transmission would halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Munir said: “Our studies demonstrate that induction of a local immune response at the point of entry of SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to not only limit clinical disease, but also - and perhaps even more importantly - virus transmission from infected to uninfected individuals...After we administered the vaccine into the noses of hamsters and then infected them with SARS-CoV-2, we found almost no virus replication in the lungs and nasal wash of these animals.”

Lancaster University lecturer Dr Lucy Jackson-Jones,, said: “We are excited by the scalability of this nasal vaccine which we hope will contribute to reducing vaccine inequity, allowing equal access to vaccination globally. Nasal delivery is also a more appealing delivery route for use in children.”

Dr John Worthington of Lancaster University said: “We are all aware of the continuing potential for variants to appear that may undo all of the amazing work the NHS has done in rolling out current vaccines. Early results suggesting reduced transmission coupled with the known ease of production, temperature storage and patient delivery of this vaccine may make a real difference in fighting the pandemic on the required global scale.”

There is currently no registered intranasal vaccine against COVID-19.

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