Vaccine against Covid-19 could be developed using silkworms

A team of Japanese researchers is working on an anti-coronavirus vaccine based on a protein found in silkworm larvae, Kyushu University professor Takahiro Kusakabe explained.

A vaccine against Covid-19 made from a silkworm protein being developed in Japan is expected to be highly effective and inexpensive, the Kyushu Takahiro Kusakabe University professor leading the project told the Russian News agency, Sputnik.

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has a protein called Spike (or S protein), which forms the “spike” on its surface that allow the virus to enter human cells.

“We are creating an artificial S-protein using silkworm proteins, which closely resembles the coronavirus Spike protein without containing any virus, so it is harmless,” said the professor.

To create this recombinant protein, researchers introduce a baculovirus, which infects insects but is harmless to humans, into the body of a silkworm. The baculovirus used by scientists contains genetic information from SARS-CoV-2.

A few days later, a protein very similar to the S protein of the coronavirus “grows” in the body of the silkworm, according to Takahiro Kusakabe.

Two types of vaccines understudy

“We are currently developing two types of vaccines: injectable and administered orally. Injectable vaccines must be purified and tested to be safe. But I think it will be as safe as the vaccines currently in use. As for the vaccine administered orally, silkworm larvae are a traditional food in Asian countries, so there should be no problem,” noted the professor.

The scientist believes that his method will produce “a very effective vaccine in larger quantities than conventional vaccines.” Besides, the price of the new vaccine will not exceed that of an influenza vaccine, or several thousand yen.

Scientists plan to test the vaccine on animals by the end of March 2021.

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