kiran gire
by on February 20, 2024

Vaccines have been one of the most significant public health achievements in history, greatly reducing the spread and severity of many devastating infectious diseases. Traditionally, vaccines are administered via intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. However, researchers are now developing nasal spray vaccines as an alternative to injections which could offer several benefits.

Nasal Delivery – A Novel Approach

Nasal delivery allows vaccines to induce protective immunity directly at the primary site of infection for many respiratory pathogens such as influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2. When administered intranasally, vaccines stimulate mucosal immune responses in the nose and lungs. This offers two key advantages over traditional injected vaccines – it not only induces systemic immunity through antibody production in the blood but also local mucosal immunity through antibodies and T cells present in the respiratory tract where the infection first appears. Mucosal immunity forms an important first line of defense, preventing pathogens from taking hold and spreading in the respiratory tract.

Clinical trials have shown nasal vaccines to be effective in reducing viral shedding and transmission. This could help curb disease spread in the community. Nasal sprays may only require one or two doses to induce protective immunity as opposed to standard injected vaccines which often require multiple doses over time to activate our immune systems adequately. With easier delivery and potential for better compliance, nasal vaccines hold promise to enhance vaccination programs.

Improving Access and Compliance

One of the major practical advantages of nasal vaccines is needle-free and painless delivery. Injection via needle and syringe can cause fear of needles and pain in some individuals, particularly children. This often leads to poor adherence to vaccination schedules globally. However, nasal sprays may improve willingness of recipients to get vaccinated, especially in pediatric populations and developing countries with limited healthcare infrastructure. The needle-free delivery could also allow for self or family-member administration of boosters without the need for trained healthcare workers. This expands access and ensures vaccine availability even in remote areas.

Improving Stability and Logistics

Most injected vaccines require stringent cold chain storage and transportation to maintain potency, which poses challenges particularly in tropical countries with unreliable power supply and infrastructure. However, nasal vaccines have shown greater stability at higher temperatures compared to injected counterparts. Some candidates remain effective for weeks at 37°C, facilitating easier transport, storage in central medical facilities and point-of-care administration without need for refrigeration. This makes nasal vaccines well-suited for mass vaccination programs in low-resource settings.

Current Nasal Vaccine Candidates

Several nasal vaccine candidates for influenza virus, RSV and COVID-19 are in different stages of development and testing. Some of the leading programs currently undergoing human clinical trials include:

- FluMist Quadrivalent (AQI): An improved version of MedImmune's FDA-approved FluMist vaccine that provides protection against four seasonal influenza strains in one nasal spray dose. Phase 3 trials ongoing.

- RSV F vaccine (Janssen): A recombinant RSV fusion protein vaccine delivered intranasally to induce IgA-mediated mucosal immunity in older adults. Phase 2 trials completed.

- COVID-19 nanoparticle vaccine (Altimmune): A single-dose intranasal COVID-19 vaccine composed of peptide antigens conjugated to virus-like particles. Phase 1 trials completed, Phase 2 planned.

- MeV-RSV (Batavia): A live-attenuated measles virus vectored vaccine co-expressing RSV F and N proteins. Phase 1 trials underway in children and adults.

Results from ongoing clinical studies will provide critical data on safety and effectiveness of these novel nasal vaccines and guide regulatory approvals. Promising candidates may reduce disease burden with just one or two immunizations.

Future Prospects and Challenges

If proven safe and effective through clinical testing, nasal vaccines could transform immunization strategies worldwide. Their inherent practical advantages over injections coupled with ability to induce protective mucosal immunity position them as highly suitable technology for tackling global health issues like pandemic influenza, RSV, and COVID-19. They may minimize the impact of annual epidemics and reduce transmission in communities. However, establishing large-scale manufacturing capacity and regulatory approvals will require substantial investments and time. Developing thermostable formulations suitable for tropical climates also remains an active challenge. Overall, nasal vaccination holds great potential to revolutionize disease prevention if technical and financial hurdles are successfully overcome in the coming years through collaborative global efforts.

nasal vaccines administered as aerosolized liquid powders or sprays represent an innovative approach harnessing the immune system’s first line of defense. Clinical studies so far indicate nasal vaccines can induce robust protection against respiratory infections through local mucosal responses, while providing practical benefits over traditional needles and syringes. If their safety, stability and effectiveness in field use are confirmed, this painless and scalable technology could vastly improve global vaccination programs in the decades ahead.


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