The ongoing SARS-CoV-2 evolution has resulted in many variants, contributing to the striking drop in vaccine efficacy and necessitated the development of next-generation vaccines to tackle antigenic diversity. Herein we developed a multivalent Semliki Forest virus replicon-based mRNA vaccine targeting the receptor binding domain (RBD), heptad repeat domain (HR), membrane protein (M) and epitopes of nsp13 of SARS-CoV-2. The bacteria-mediated gene delivery offers the rapid production of large quantities of vaccine at a highly economical scale and notably allows the needle-free mass vaccination. A favourable Th1 dominated potent antibody and cellular immune responses were detected in the immunized mice. Further, immunization induced strong cross-protective neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against the B.1.617.2 delta variant (Clade G). We recorded a difference in induction of IgA response by the immunization route with the oral route eliciting a strong mucosal sIgA response, which possibly has contributed to the enhanced protection conferred by the oral immunization. Hamsters immunized orally were completely protected against the viral replication in the lungs and the nasal cavity. Importantly, the vaccine protected the hamsters against SARS-CoV-2-induced pneumonia. The study provides proof-of-principle findings for the development of a feasible and efficacious oral mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.
Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Inc.