A COVID-19 nasal spray vaccine is currently being developed by the National Taiwan University Hospital. with human testing likely to take place in 2022.
Over 77 percent of people in Taiwan have been vaccinated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine up-to-date, but there is still about 20 percent that has not received any shots. The National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) is currently in the works of developing a COVID-19 nasal spray vaccine to encourage people who are not yet vaccinated. The intranasal spray's protection comes from nanoparticles that carry bits of harmless, virus-mimicking DNA that trigger a generation of IgG antibodies. In addition to boosting immunity, the molecules generated by the spray act as a physical blockade against viral infection, including the Delta strain, by limiting the amount of virus that can settle into the nasal passages and travel into the lungs, potentially reducing transmission to others. So far, the aerosolized vaccine has been delivered only in the snouts of mice, but it's shown promise in protecting against a pseudovirus that closely resembles the COVID-19 virus.
Huang Li-min, Superintendent, National Taiwan University Children's Hospital: “It's a nasal spray. The convenience is the attraction, because first of all, you don't have to get stabbed by a needle, and second, it produces IgA (immunoglobulin A), which in theory helps to reduce transmission to others.”
Neutralizing antibody levels are highly predictive of immune protection from COVID-19 infections, but antibody tests using live viruses need to be conducted in a biosafety level-3 laboratory. To make the process easier, the NTUH instead utilizes the latest ELISA antibody detection test for COVID-19 and designs the test based on the receptor-binding domain of the Delta variant and the human enzyme ACE2.
Huang Li-min, Superintendent, National Taiwan University Children's Hospital: “We could probably do fewer tests in the level-3 laboratory in the future and just retrieve blood samples and conduct an ELISA test. ELISA tests can be done in normal laboratories. It's fast and convenient; hundreds and thousands of tests can be conducted each day.”
Taiwan's research team says that most vaccines available on the market now are based on the original Wuhan strain. To prevent breakthrough infections, many countries are now in the process of developing new generations of vaccines. The NTUH is also active in the talks with Taiwan's biotechnology companies to develop and produce the COVID-19 nasal spray vaccine. Human testing will likely take place during the first half of 2022.