Strengthening the immune response at the location where the virus enters the body: A team led by Prof. Dr. Klaus Überla and Prof. Dr. Matthias Tenbusch at the Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology at FAU is currently conducting research into a vaccine that is administered as a nose or mouth spray and forms local antibodies in the mucous membranes. The project is part of the Bavarian research network FOR-COVID and has received 280,000 euros of further funding for the next three years.
During the first research period, which started in autumn 2020, the researchers demonstrated that mice that received a booster vaccine administered as a nasal spray developed local antibodies in their mucous membranes. These antibodies can neutralise viruses directly as they enter the body and thus reduce the risk of an infection. This effect is less apparent in vaccines administered into muscles.
‘We now have to try and understand the immunological mechanisms behind this type of vaccine and discover whether this method may be more efficient at protecting us against new virus variants such as Omicron,’ explains Prof. Dr. Matthias Tenbusch, project manager of the research group. In conjunction with partners of the research network at other universities and research institutions in Bavaria, the team is testing the method with various vaccines. A clinical trial has been set up to find out whether the vaccine is effective as a mouth spray. In addition, the team would like to find out which factors must come together in order for the immune system to react in the best possible way when confronted by infections and how this reaction can be achieved using vaccinations.
‘This new form of administering vaccines could significantly decrease the risk of infection amongst people who have already been vaccinated and also reduce the risk that they pass on the virus without realising it if they do become infected,’ explains Prof. Dr. Klaus Überla.