Intranasal immunization with a vaccinia virus vaccine vector expressing pre-fusion stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike fully protected mice against lethal challenge with the heavily mutated mouse-adapted SARS2-N501YMA30 strain of SARS-CoV-2

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The Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant has been designated a variant of concern because its spike protein is heavily mutated. In particular, Omicron spike is mutated at 5 positions (K417, N440, E484, Q493 and N501) that have been associated with escape from neutralizing antibodies induced by either infection with or immunization against the early Washington strain of SARS-CoV-2. The mouse-adapted strain of SARS-CoV-2, SARS2-N501YMA30, contains a spike that is also heavily mutated, with mutations at 4 of the 5 positions in Omicron spike associated with neutralizing antibody escape (K417, E484, Q493 and N501). In this manuscript we show that intranasal immunization with a pre-fusion stabilized Washington strain spike, expressed from a highly attenuated, replication-competent vaccinia virus construct, NYVAC-KC, fully protected mice against disease and death from SARS2-N501YMA30. Similarly, immunization by scarification on the skin fully protected against death, but not from mild disease. This data demonstrates that Washington strain spike, when expressed from a highly attenuated, replication-competent poxvirus, administered without parenteral injection can fully protect against the heavily mutated mouse-adapted SARS2-N501YMA30.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv

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