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

Vaccines (Basel). 2022 Jul 23;10(8):1172. doi: 10.3390/vaccines10081172.


The Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant has been designated as a variant of concern because its spike protein is heavily mutated. In particular, the Omicron spike is mutated at five 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 four of the five positions in the 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 symptoms 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 the 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.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; replication-competent; vaccine.