A team of Japanese researchers is working on vaccine for COVID-19 based on a protein found in the larvae of silkworms.
Takahiro Kusakabe, Professor at the Kyushu University, explained that the coronavirus has a protein called Spike, or S protein, which forms “spikes” on its surface allowing the virus to enter human cells.
Takahiro Kusakabe: “We are creating an artificial S protein using proteins from silkworms, which looks a lot like the Spike protein of the coronavirus without containing viruses, so it is harmless”.
To generate this recombinant protein, the 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 for the coronavirus. A few days later, a protein very similar to the S protein of the COVID-19 “grows” in the silkworm body.
Takahiro Kusakabe: “We are currently developing two types of vaccines: injection vaccine and for peroral administration. Injection 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 oral intake vaccine, silkworm larvae are a traditional food in Asian countries, so there should be no problem.”
The Japanese scientists believe that this method would help to produce a very effective vaccine in larger quantities. Besides, the price of the new vaccine will not exceed that of an influenza vaccine. The research of the vaccine on animal objects is planned by the end of March 2021.