Nasal vaccines could 'change' pandemic

A nasally delivered COVID-19 vaccine developed in Australia is promising much better protection against the virus.

Testing of the new nasal spray vaccine resulted in zero COVID transmission among mice, researchers from Sydney University and the Centenary Institute reported on Wednesday.

Nasal and orally administered vaccines have the potential to be far more effective by targeting areas such as the throat and lungs where the virus first enters the body.

China and India recently approved the use of separate nasal vaccines and others have already been approved by Russia and Iran.

But Australians will have to wait for any rollout of this potentially game- changing solution.

"There is a lot of... evidence that inhaled or nasal vaccines really have the potential to change this epidemic," Sydney University research fellow and lead author of the study Anneliese Ashhurst said.

"We're really excited."

The new vaccine contains the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as well as a molecule called Pam2Cys, which helps stimulate a stronger immune response in the body.

Developers say the spray could be administered without specific training at local health centres and it offers a great alternative to those who don't like injections or have concerns about viral vector or mRNA vaccines.

While very promising, the results may not translate directly to humans and the vaccine still has to pass clinical tests which could take years.

"We want to make sure we go through all the appropriate safety and efficacy trials before somewhere like Australia would consider rolling this out," Dr Ashhurst said.

The team is waiting to hear back about funding for further testing from a number of potential sources, including NSW Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Research into inhalable vaccines has been undertaken by the group for more than a decade and may have positive implications for other diseases beyond the COVID virus.

Head of the Centenary Institute's Tuberculosis Research Program, Professor Emeritus Warwick Britton said adapted versions of the new nasal vaccine could be potentially applied to other respiratory diseases such as influenza, avian flu, SARS and MERS.

"Our vaccination findings have shown exciting potential in pre-clinical studies, improving protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection," he said.

"The approach developed here could help break the COVID-19 infection cycle and will likely influence future coronavirus vaccine related studies."

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.