Latest News

Clues beginning to emerge on asymtomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection
Back in November of 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was teaching an in-person microbiology laboratory. One of my students had just been home to see his parents, and they all c…
Read more
Could there maybe be better uses of genetics and probiotics?
Professor Meng Dong and his laboratory have created a probiotic that can metabolize alcohol quickly and maybe prevent some of the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. The scientists cloned a highl…
Read more
ChatGPT is not the end of essays in education
The takeover of AI is upon us! AI can now take all our jobs, is the click-bait premise you hear from the news. While I cannot predict the future, I am dubious that AI will play such a dubious role in…
Read more
Fighting infections with infections
Multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections are becoming more of an issue, with 1.2 million people dying of previously treatable bacterial infections. Scientists are frantically searching for new metho…
Read more
A tale of two colleges
COVID-19 at the University of Wisconsin this fall has been pretty much a non-issue. While we are wearing masks, full in-person teaching is happening on campus. Bars, restaurants, and all other busine…
Read more


Nasal nanoSTING vaccines may Provide Lasting Protection Against SARS-CoV-2


All successful vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 have used the spike protein as the target and delivered the vaccine by intramuscular injection, typically a shot in the left or right shoulder. The vaccines have proven to be spectacularly effective, protecting against infection, severe disease, and death. However, recent mutations of SARS-CoV-2 have created varients that can cause breakthrough infections at a significant rate. While those who are vaccinated are still protected against severe disease and death, protection against infection does appear to wane after several months. This can allow the virus to continue to spread and impact those who cannot or will not get vaccinated. SARS-CoV-2 infection begins in the nose and the upper respiratory tract. Intramuscular injection does not stimulate strong mucosal immunity in these areas.


An et al. from the University of Texas have developed a single-dose intranasal vaccination system that elicits rapid systemic and mucosal immunity. Importantly, spike-specific IgA responses are present in the nasal compartment and the lung after vaccination and will presumably be better at preventing infection than current vaccines. Inhaled vaccines were difficult to deliver and there was a need for appropriate adjuvants that would stimulate a robust response. (Adjuvants are added to vaccines to enhance the body's immune response to an antigen.)  The authors report the creation of adjuvants that stimulate the STING pathway (STINGa) was the key to vaccine effectiveness.

STINGa was formulated in liposome particles by a simple hydration procedure. These nanoSTING particles were stable at refrigerator temperatures. The active vaccine was created by mixing lyophilized spike proteins with nanoSTING and immediately inoculating mice with the mixture. A convenient, foolproof method of preparing the vaccine will have to be developed for this to have widespread use.

The mice vaccinated with nanoSTING had a rapid immune response in 15 days. The response included neutralizing antibodies, B-cells, T-cells, and serum IgA. Especially important, a strong immune response was found in the nasal immune tissue of the mice, suggesting that they would have strong protection against infection with SARS-CoV-2. Unfortunately, the immunized mice were not challenged by infection since they are not an appropriate model for these types of studies. The authors indicate that studies in hamsters or monkeys where viral challenges are possible is the next set of experiments.

There is a long way to go before this hits clinical trials, but it may eventually be a path toward more robust protection against respiratory viruses.