Introduction: Mucosal vaccine development faces several challenges and opportunities. Critical issues for effective mucosal vaccination include the antigen-retention period that enables interaction with the lymphatic system, choice of adjuvant that is nontoxic and induces the required immune response and possibly an ability to mimic mucosal pathogens. Chitosan-based delivery systems are reviewed here as they address these issues and hence represent the most promising candidates for the delivery of mucosal vaccines.
Areas covered: A comprehensive literature search was conducted, to locate relevant studies published within the last 5 years. Mucosal delivery via nasal and oral routes is evaluated with respect to chitosan type, dosage forms, co-adjuvanting with novel adjuvants and modulation of the immune system.
Expert opinion: It is concluded that chitosan derivatives offer advantageous opportunities such as nanoparticle and surface charge manipulation that facilitate vaccine targeting. Nevertheless, these technologies represent a longer-term goal. By contrast, chitosan (unmodified form) with or without a co-adjuvant has significant toxicology and human data to support safe mucosal administration, and thus has the potential for earlier product introduction into the market.