London: Preliminary tests on mice of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which was administered via a fingertip-sized patch, have shown that it can trigger an immune response against the new coronavirus at concentrations that could prevent infection, US scientists said on Thursday. Researchers around the world are working to develop potential respiratory disease treatments or vaccines that killed almost 47,000 people and infected nearly one million in just a few months.
A team from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in the U.S. said it was able to quickly develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine after working on other coronaviruses that have severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and cause Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)).
“These two viruses, closely related to SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic), teach us that a particular protein called a spike protein is important to to induce immunity to the virus, “he said Andrea Gambotto, associate professor in Pittsburgh. “We knew exactly where to fight this new virus.”
When tested on mice, the prototype vaccine, which the researchers called PittCoVacc, produced a so-called “rise in antibodies” against the new corona virus within two weeks.
The researchers in Pittsburgh warned that it was too early to say whether and how long the immune response to COVID-19 would last since the animals had not been followed for very long.
However, they said that in comparable tests on mice, their experimental MERS vaccine produced enough antibodies to neutralize the virus for at least one year.
So far, antibody levels in animals vaccinated with SARS-CoV-2 appear to be following the same trend, they said in a peer-reviewed study in EBioMedicine.
The team hopes to test the vaccine candidate on people in clinical trials over the next few months.
The potential vaccine uses a needle plaster design called a microneedle array to increase its potential effectiveness.
This array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles made from sugar and the spike protein, Gambotto explained. It is designed to deliver the pieces of spike protein into the skin where the immune response is strongest.