COVID-19 outbreak first time emerged in December 2019, and since then, all organizations have joined efforts in finding a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. This race to be the first to develop the vaccine has led to the emergency use authorization of numerous participants. Most of the vaccines encode the viral spike protein, which mediates the initial stage of the infection process by sticking ACE2 (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2) through its RBD (Receptor-Binding Domain). Till now, all the vaccines approved for emergency use have proved to be highly effective at protecting symptomatic COVID-19. Moreover, the mass vaccination drives being held in countries have significantly reduced the number of hospitalizations and death from the virus.
Adding to these constant efforts, researchers have now developed a protein-based subunit vaccine that can be useful against SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus). The new vaccine might be a revolutionary advancement for the COVID-19 Vaccine Market as it could potentially serve as a substitute for the mRNA-based vaccine. This is especially so, when it comes to ease of production and cost viability, the effectiveness of protection, and the sturdiness of the material.
The team stated that some subunit vaccines show a positive attitude towards processes such as lyophilization (responsible for eliminating the need for sophisticated storage and cold-chain infrastructures). They also offer several benefits over nucleic-acid-based vaccines on factors like transport, simplicity, administration, cost, and production capacity.
The research showed that Ferritin-like protein (from the archaeon Sulfolobusislandicus) mixed with distinct antigens from SARS-CoV-2 resulted in the formation of extremely stable vaccine nanoparticles. Moreover, these nanoparticles were found to wholly protect mice from pneumonia and other diseases associated with SARS-CoV-2, too, after a single immunization.
The research team had the sole objective of developing a stable and efficient scaffold that would enable the multimerization of distinct SARS-CoV-2 antigens. Therefore, they covalently linked SARS-CoV-2 proteins present in bacterial and mammalian cells with bacterially-expressed ferritin-like Dps protein belonging to the archaeon Sulfolobusislandicus. It was concluded that linkage of the SARS-CoV-2 RBD to the Dps (RBD-S-Dps) produced vaccine nanoparticles that are stable and malignant. Further, they also remained intact even after the process of lyophilization.
Furthermore, the immunization experiment done on mice proved that RBD-S-Dps induced a higher antibody titer and improved neutralization of antibody response than the RBD alone. In addition, a single immunization with the multivalent vaccine provides complete protection to mice from several severe illnesses after they were put against SARS-CoV-2 and effectively removed a virus from the lungs. The team added that further research must develop the scaffold into a powerful vaccine that would provide adequate protection against SARS-CoV-2 and other similar viruses.
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