Scientists have successfully tested a vaccine which, through a finger-sized patch, produces antibodies to fight COVID-19.

A vaccine that neutralizes the coronavirus has been successfully tested on mice by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, but scientists warn that testing with humans could take many more months.

According to an article published in the scientific journal The Lancet, ‘EBioMedicine’, when tested in mice, the vaccine administers antibodies, through a patch the size of a fingertip, in quantities which are considered sufficient to neutralize the virus COVID 19 .

This is the first study to be released after being criticised by other researchers from institutions outside the University of Pittsburgh. “We had previous experiences with the SARS-CoV virus in 2003 and with MERS-CoV in 2014,” says Andrea Gambotto, professor of surgery at the UP Faculty of Medicine, referring to two viruses that are “closely related to SARS- CoV-2 “, which is the cause of COVID-19.

Such experiences, adds Gambotto, have taught scientists here that a particular protein, known as a “spike” (a kind of key that is inserted into the ACE2 receptor of human cells to penetrate them), is “important in producing immunity against the virus.” “We knew exactly where to fight this new virus, hence the importance of financing vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from,” added the researcher.

A patch with 400 needles

Compared to the experimental mRNA vaccine, which has just begun clinical trials, the vaccine described as PittCoVacc, short for Coronavirus Pittsburgh Vaccine, “follows a more established process, using pieces of viral protein made in the laboratory to boost immunity . ”

The scientists explain in their article that this is the same mechanism by which flu vaccines work. The researchers also used a novel method of administering the compound, called the microneedle set, to increase potency.

This consists of a fingertip-sized patch with 400 very small needles that deliver the pieces of the “spike” protein into the skin where the immune reaction is strongest. The patch attaches like a Band-Aid, and then the needles, which are made entirely of sugar and pieces of protein, simply dissolve in the skin.

Louis Falo, director of the chair of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and who is another of the study’s authors, explains that this method was developed taking advantage of the original scraping used with the measles vaccine “but with a high-tech version that is more efficient and can be replicated from patient to patient.” “In fact, it is almost painless, it feels like a kind of velcro,” he says.