China has approved the first phase of human trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine administered through a nasal spray.
The inoculation is being developed by researchers at Xiamen University, Hong Kong University, and vaccine maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, according to Bloomberg News.
This is the 10th such candidate from China to proceed to the crucial stage of human testing.
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The spray contains strains of the weakened flu virus with genetic segments of the coronavirus’s spike protein. Once in the body, it mimics the natural infection of respiratory viruses to stimulate the body’s immune response against the pathogen that causes COVID-19, Science and Technology Daily reports. The paper is affiliated with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
The hope is that a vaccine sprayed through the nose may have a better chance of stopping the virus in the respiratory tracts, while a shot may not be strong enough to stave off infection.
Staff members check and clean equipment at a vaccine production plant operated by SinoPharm in Beijing. (Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via AP)
Encouraging animal-based trials reinforced the concept.
A study published last month by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis concluded that a nasal vaccine prevented infection in mice — significantly reducing lung damage — and that the spray was more successful in fending off the virus.
Intranasal sprays are already employed to prevent the flu and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted their usefulness.
The World Health Organization reports that at least 35 coronavirus vaccine trials are currently underway across the globe.
A major study conducted by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, however, paused this week after researchers said a participant reported a “potentially unexplained illness.”
In the wake of AstraZeneca’s setback, China’s own developers — CanSino Biologics Inc. and state-owned China National Biotec Group Co. — have reassured consumers about the safety of their own shots.
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None of the Chinese diplomats traveling to virus hot spots overseas have reported infections months after receiving CNBG vaccines, their general counsel told Science and Technology Daily.
According to MarketWatch, there are seven vaccine candidates that have moved into clinical trials with human participants, including three that have moved into a crucial development phase.