Animal research

Animal research and our future with COVID-19 – Speaking of research

August 2ndn/a 2022
Jeremy D. Bailoo

It has now been more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared and, to date, 6.4 million people have died from contracting the disease. Within a year, vaccines had been developed and their safety and efficacy assessed and demonstrated. This shorter timeline for vaccine development is the result of more than a decade of animal research on other coronaviruses, MERS and SARS, as well as decades of animal mRNA research. 4.87 billion people are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Many restrictions related to reducing transmission of the virus, such as mask mandates and social distancing, were removed as more people were vaccinated. Why? Because even though it is still possible to catch COVID-19, especially the new BA. 4 and BA. 5 variants, vaccinated individuals are on average spared the severe and often fatal effects of the disease.

It is important to note that there are still many disagreements among scientists regarding the current guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control. Some, for example, believe that based on scientific data and knowledge of virology and immunology, the minimum quarantine period of 5 days Is insufficient to guard against the transmission of new variants of COVID-19. Others believe that given the lack of enforcement and adherence to strict policies early on when it comes to transmission guarantees against COVID-19, the disease has become part of our “new normal.” And yet others believe the virus will be labeled as endemic by 2024. Importantly, endemic does not NOT mean that the virus will persist in the population in a less harmful way. To an epidemiologist, endemic simply means that the rate of infection in a population is at a fixed level. In the case of COVID-19, this means that COVID-19 can still be widespread and deadly. It is therefore not surprising that scientists are still working hard to develop new therapies, such as new vaccine delivery strategies.

ACE2 humanized mouse

Last week, two such strategies made the rounds in the news. The first, a needleless vaccine patch – called a high-density microchip patch (HD-MAP) – has been shown to be highly effective in neutralizing variants of COVID-19 In mice. According to lead author Dr. McMillan:

“The high-density patch microarray is a vaccine delivery platform that precisely delivers the vaccine into the immune cell-rich layers of the skin. We found that vaccination via a patch was about 11 times more effective in combating the Omicron variant compared to the same vaccine given via a needle. So far, every type of vaccine we have tested via the patch, including subunit, DNA, inactivated virus and conjugate, produces superior immune responses compared to traditional needle vaccination methods. [emphases added]

The second strategy—again in mice— involved a needleless COVID-19 mucosal vaccine. According to the press release, current vaccines are injected intramuscularly in 2 or more doses and are effective in preventing COVID-19, but they do not induce effective mucosal immunity or prevent viral transmission. Here, intranasal (i.e. through the nose) administration of 2 doses of the T4-COVID-19 phage vaccine 21 days apart induced robust mucosal immunity, in addition to strong systemic humoral immunity (in bodily fluids such as blood) and cellular responses. The intranasal vaccine induced broad neutralization of the virus.

All of these responses were much stronger in mice vaccinated intranasally than those induced by the injected vaccine.

Key to both studies was that the two new methods of vaccination, whether patch or through the nose, elicited a more robust immune response than the current method of intramuscular injection, especially against novel variants of COVID-19. . In light of the current prediction by leading virologists and epidemiologists that COVID-19 is indeed part of our immediate and distant future, strategies like these can serve to further reduce the severity of infection and thereby save lives. lives. And all of this is made possible by animal research. #MPAR