Several vaccines have been introduced to combat the coronavirus infectious disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines include mRNA-containing lipid nanoparticles or adenoviral vectors that encode the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2, inactivated virus, or protein subunits. Despite growing success in worldwide vaccination efforts, additional capabilities may be needed in the future to address issues such as stability and storage requirements, need for vaccine boosters, and emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants or entirely new viruses.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a novel, well-characterized SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate based on extracellular vesicles (EVs) of Salmonella typhimurium that are decorated with the mammalian cell culture-derived Spike receptor-binding domain (RBD). RBD-conjugated outer membrane vesicles (RBD-OMVs) were used to immunize the golden Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) model of COVID-19. Intranasal immunization resulted in high titers of blood anti-RBD IgG as well as detectable mucosal responses. Upon challenge with live virus, hamsters immunized with RBD-OMV, but not animals immunized with unconjugated OMVs or a vehicle control, avoided weight loss, had lower virus titers in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, and experienced less severe lung pathology. These results emphasize the value and versatility of OMV-based vaccine approaches.
Schematic of expression constructs and OMV decoration
A) Design of RBD recombinant antigens fused to N- and C-terminal SpyTag. B) Schematic image of an OMV decorated with RBD.