With the rapid increase in SARS-CoV-2 cases in children, a safe and effective vaccine for this population is urgently needed. The MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine has been one of the safest and most effective human vaccines used in infants and children since the 1960s. Here, we developed live attenuated recombinant mumps virus (rMuV)-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates using the MuV Jeryl Lynn (JL2) vaccine strain backbone. The soluble prefusion SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (preS) gene, stablized by two prolines (preS-2P) or six prolines (preS-6P), was inserted into the MuV genome at the P-M or F-SH gene junctions in the MuV genome. preS-6P was more efficiently expressed than preS-2P, and preS-6P expression from the P-M gene junction was more efficient than from the F-SH gene junction. In mice, the rMuV-preS-6P vaccine was more immunogenic than the rMuV-preS-2P vaccine, eliciting stronger neutralizing antibodies and mucosal immunity. Sera raised in response to the rMuV-preS-6P vaccine neutralized SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, including the Delta variant equivalently. Intranasal and/or subcutaneous immunization of IFNAR1-/- mice and golden Syrian hamsters with the rMuV-preS-6P vaccine induced high levels of neutralizing antibodies, mucosal immunoglobulin A antibody, and T cell immune responses, and were completely protected from challenge by both SARS-CoV-2 USA-WA1/2020 and Delta variants. Therefore, rMuV-preS-6P is a highly promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate, warranting further development as a tetravalent MMR vaccine, which may include protection against SARS-CoV-2.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; mumps virus; vaccine.