Researchers at the University of Würzburg recently presented a novel approach in the search for vaccine against the corona virus SARs-CoV-2, or Covid-19. In two points, this approach differs drastically from the vaccines used in the current inoculation drives, and whose effects and side effects have frequently been debated. The vaccine the Würzburg scientists are working on will be orally administered – the kind of oral vaccine familiar from polio immunisation, or the one that’s still in use for typhoid vaccinations. The active ingredient the researchers in Würzburg are working on is also based on this typhoid vaccine. It is an attenuated strain (Ty21a) of the typhoid pathogen Salmonella typhi.
For the preclinical studies the typhoid salmonellas were programmed to produce SARA-COV-2 antigens in the gut after swallowing. “Both bacteria and antigens are expected to be taken up by immune cells, triggering a protective immune response both locally and systemically”, as the scientific press notes. Accordingly, the scientists hope that all (!) human mucous membranes in the body are put on alert and prevent the corona virus from entering the body.
A major advantage of oral vaccination is that the vaccine is administered in capsule form, can be taken by anyone without having to see a doctor, and that cold chains with very low temperatures – like those originally specified for the vaccines produced by Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna – are unnecessary. In addition, manufacturing costs may be much lower.
Whether the new vaccine is sufficiently effective and safe remains to be seen. The scientists have just begun the preclinical studies which cover these aspects. In any case, however, it is an important new approach which also shows how bacteria can be used to benefit our health and to prevent diseases.
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