LONDON, Apr 2 (Reuters) – Tests in mice of a possible vaccine administered through a finger-sized patch have shown that it can induce an immune response to the coronavirus to levels that could prevent infection, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Researchers from around the world are working to develop possible treatments or vaccines against the respiratory disease that has killed nearly 47,000 people and infected nearly one million in a few months.
The team of researchers said they made rapid progress in developing a possible COVID-19 vaccine after working on other strains of the coronavirus that cause Acute and Severe Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Respiratory Syndrome of Middle East (MERS).
“These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 (the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic), teach us that a particular protein is important in inducing immunity against the virus,” Andrea said. Gambotto, associate professor at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
When tested in mice, the prototype vaccine – which researchers have called PittCoVacc – generated “a surge of antibodies” against the new coronavirus within two weeks.
The researchers cautioned that it is too early to say whether and for how long the immune response against COVID-19 lasts because the animals have not yet been observed for a sufficient period.
But they said that in comparable tests in mice with their experimental MERS vaccine, a sufficient level of antibodies was produced to neutralize the virus for at least a year.
So far, the antibody levels of animals vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 appear to follow the same trend, they said in a peer-reviewed study in the journal EBioMedicine.
The team hopes to begin testing the vaccine in humans in clinical trials in the coming months.
The potential vaccine uses a needle-patch design, called a microneedle array, to amplify its potency. This is a finger-sized patch with 400 needles made from sugar and spike protein, Gambotto explained.
The patch is designed to introduce the fragments of this protein into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest.
(Report by Kate Kelland; edited in Spanish by Michael Susin and Javier Leira)