Study: New Nasal Vaccine Shows Promise for Protection Against COVID-19, HIV

Investigators find that establishing immunity in the mucosal areas establishes a frontline defense against these diseases.

A new vaccine through mucosal tissues in the nose could lead to better protection against pathogens, such as HIV and SARS-CoV-2, according to the results of a study published in Science Translational Medicine, the medical journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Investigators found that the nasal vaccine generated a strong immune response in mice and non-human primates, which they think could pave the way for further study and development of nasal vaccines.

Nasal vaccines, usually administered through a nebulizer or spray, have been difficult to make successful, because of the mucus in the nose clearing out or breaking down the vaccine components before they can access underlying tissue and activate the body’s immune cells.

“Traditional vaccines that are injected are not usually geared toward establishing immunity in these mucosal tissues,” Brittany Hartwell, PhD, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Department of Biomedical Engineering, said in a statement.

“They're more geared toward establishing immunity in the blood, sort of like a backup defense. But the idea of establishing immunity in the mucosal areas, like the nose, is that it establishes more of a frontline defense that can better protect against transmission of these diseases,” Hartwell said.

The new vaccine was able to illicit a strong mucosal antibody response but also a strong antibody response in the blood, she said.

Investigators engineered the vaccine to bind to the protein, albumin, which naturally occurs in the human body and has the ability to get around some of the common issues.

The vaccine also proved effective at generating immunity in other mucosal tissues, including the genitourinary tract, lungs, and upper-respiratory system. It is known that the genitourinary tract is used when vaccinating against a virus such as HIV, which can be transmitted through that pathway.

“This is really significant for the field of mucosal vaccination,” Hartwell said. “It shows something new, that we’ve designed a vaccine capable of overcoming barriers to delivery that have historically plagued the development of other mucosal vaccines.”

This is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic and as long as it continues to spread, the virus can evolve into new variants, Hartwell said.

The research showed that a slightly different kind of vaccine could provide even better protection and block transition, which will prevent catching and passing along the virus, she said.

“This research shows the development of a slightly different kind of vaccine that could provide even better protection than what we currently have by blocking transmission, preventing us from catching and passing the virus onto others,” Hartwell said.

Investigators are continuing to study and develop this new vaccine technology at a laboratory at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and they hope to apply the technology to other diseases.

Reference

New method of nasal vaccine delivery could lead to better vaccines for HIV and COVID-19. News release. EurekAlert. August 10, 2022. Accessed August 11, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/961414