Hong Kong researchers have developed an oral vaccine against COVID-19. Studies in mice and pilot studies on humans have shown that the preparation does not cause adverse reactions to vaccination. The vaccine comes in the form of capsules.
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1. Oral COVID-19 vaccine
Dr. Kwong Wai Yeung, research director at DreamTec, Hong Kong, and his team developed a new way to administer SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as a potential ingredient in an oral vaccine.
The researchers emphasized that the vaccine is able to induce an immune response to the virus in both mice and humans without side effects, and the peak proteins do not enter the bloodstream.
An oral booster to increase the number of antibodies can be produced in the form of capsules containing billions of Bacillus subtilis spores. When ingested, transgenic spores are released in the small intestine, where an immune response is triggered on the mucosa. The scientists indicated that the surface of the bacterial spore Bacillus subtilis expresses the receptor binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 peak protein and produces neutralizing antibodies.
“We have attempted to develop an oral COVID-19 vaccine to provide a drug that is safe, effective and easy to administer,” Dr. Kwong said in a post-pilot release.
2. Vaccine in capsules is safe
Booster dose for vaccination with Bacillus subtilis as reported on the UK Clinical Trials Area website can be stored at room temperaturethus being stable for at least six months.
Professor Agnieszka Szuster-Ciesielska from the Department of Virology and Immunology at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin told PAP that research reports confirm that Bacillus subtilis is safe and non-toxic for mammals.
– Bacillus subtilis spores are resistant to environmental factors, including conditions in the digestive system. Probiotic strains of B. subtilis are involved in maintaining the microecological balance of the intestine, they can stimulate the release of secretory immunoglobulins, which helps build the immunity of the intestinal mucosa – she emphasized and added that “due to its properties in regulating humoral and cellular immunity, B. subtilis has become an ideal carrier of a vaccine to protect mucous membranes“.
B. subtilis bacteria were selected on the basis of their ability to survive the conditions in the human digestive system by producing endospores. Given that the effectiveness of traditional vaccines declines with the advent of the new virus variant, Dr. Kwong said that “our current vaccine was developed in a few months, so we can repeat it in the future with other SARS-CoV-2 variants that may appear, such as the Omikron “.
3. More research needed
“We plan to work with industry partners to conduct preclinical studies to evaluate human safety,” said Dr. Kwong.
According to Szuster-Ciesielska, the essence of the conducted research was such modification of the bacterial spores that they expressed a SARS-CoV-2 spine fragment on their surface.
– This is the so-called receptor binding domain responsible for the direct recognition of the receptor in the human respiratory cell. I see a weakness here, because only a fragment of the thorn is used it depletes the range of produced antibodies compared to immunization with whole spike protein, as is the case with already approved vaccines, she said, adding that “if a mutation occurs in this region, the oral vaccine will be much less effective.”
– Nevertheless, in studies on mice and pilot studies with humans, it has been shown that the bacterial spores prepared in this way are safe and cause the formation of neutralizing antibodies. The presented studies are only preliminary, but have the potential to be continued in the pre-clinical phase and later in the clinical phase, as the authors of the discovery predict.
DreamTec is a biotechnology company founded by Dr. Kwong Wai Yeung that develops biotechnology solutions including the expression of valuable recombinant proteins, RNA and stem cell cultures.
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