Anyone who has been vaccinated against the corona virus in Germany has most likely received either an mRNA vaccine from Moderna or Biontech, or a vector vaccine from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, or the protein-based agent from Novovax injected. But as important as these drugs have been and are in stopping the spread of the coronavirus and mitigating the consequences for those infected, their effectiveness has diminished in the face of new variants. After all, they were all designed for the wild-type virus, not the variants.
It makes sense that the work in labs around the world will continue. A candidate who was recently approved in Canada after a successful phase 3 study is causing a stir. As the New England Journal of Medicine now writes, the new vaccine is a plant vaccine.
A tobacco leaf vaccine has been developed in Canada
In the medical journal it says: “The CoVLP vaccine from the manufacturer Medicago of Quebec is produced in the leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana, a tobacco plant native to Australia. This plant has been used for a long time in medical research because one of its weaknesses for research is a stroke of luck: it is infected with many viruses. Although Sars-CoV-2 is not one of them, the researchers were able to integrate the genes of the coronavirus into the cells of the tobacco plant using a bacterium.
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After manipulation, the plant produces virus-like particles called “coronavirus virus-like particles” (CoVLPs). These can then in turn be isolated from the leaves of the plant.
The advantage of these CoVLPs: They carry the coronavirus antigens on the surface, but are not infectious because they do not contain any genes. This means that the plant produces viral envelopes that look like the virus but are not dangerous – and that makes them interesting as a vaccine.
Tobacco vaccine needs a booster
An assessment also shared by medical journalist Dr. Christoph Specht shared with the RTL television channel, but with a caveat. Because with a vaccine, the strength of the immune response is always important. “MRNA-based vaccines, for example, produce spike proteins that induce a good immune response,” says Specht. “Such a dead virus, which can’t do anything, leads to a relatively weak antibody response. So you need an effect enhancer.
This is exactly what Canadian researchers have done. GlaxoSmithKline’s AS03 adjuvant was added to the tobacco-based corona vaccine as a booster to further stimulate the immune system.
This is how well the tobacco vaccine protects against the corona virus
The tobacco vaccine performed well in the phase 3 study. It was performed on 24,141 younger adults. They received two doses of the vaccine between March and September 2021, 21 days apart. Overall, during the first month and a half after the second dose, there were 165 confirmed post-vaccination corona infections: 40 in the vaccinated group, 125 in the placebo group. The effect was therefore confirmed.
The manufacturer Medicago indicates the effectiveness of the vaccine at 69.5%. The protective effect in test subjects who previously had no antibodies was even 74%. It is also interesting to note that the average viral load in the vaccinated subjects with breakthrough infections was more than 100 times lower than that of the placebo group.
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This is one of the reasons why this vaccine is already administered in Canada. It is already on the market in its country of origin, Canada, under the name Covifenz.