Inhalable COVID vaccine? MIT researchers working on immunization potentially more effective than injection

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Good news for individuals who simply can’t stand to be stuck with a needle. Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing an inhalable COVID-19 vaccine that could be even more effective than injectable ones. In fact, they believe their research also opens the door for preventing and treating cancers and other diseases.

The researchers hope that, like other vaccines administered to the throat, their development will spark an immune system response as soon as the infection is inhaled. Foundation research on mice shows that an inhalable vaccine is 25 times more effective that one injected into a muscle. That’s because sending the vaccine directly onto mucosal membranes — like those found in the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs — can get immune system cells, or T cells, to “set up shop” ready to attack an infection where it lands.

This COVID vaccine project began after scientists successfully tested an inhalable vaccine for the smallpox virus in mice. In the study, published in the journal Science Immunology, scientists aimed to develop an intratracheal (via the throat) vaccine for both viruses and cancer. Most vaccines are given as injections into muscle tissue. But most viral infections occur at mucosal surfaces.

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