N protein based vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 produces a strong T cell immune response to N Protein of novel strains
The second generation COVID-19 vaccines should produce the long-term protective immune response to the existing and novel strains of SARS-CoV-2. The Convacell® vaccine was designed to produce such immune response by using N protein as an antigen. N-protein is not susceptible to fast accumulation of mutations and is highly homologous to nucleocapsid proteins of other β-coronaviruses. The study was aimed to perform in vitro assessment of the Convacell® vaccine ability to produce immune response to the Wuhan, Delta, and Omicron strains. Mononuclear cells of vaccinated volunteers and survivors were subjected to N protein stimulation. After that specific activation of the cells was assessed by flow cytometry. The results showed that a sibstantial percentage of CD4 and CD8 cells produced IFNγ and IL2 in response to stimulation. No significant reduction of the response to strains Delta and Omicron compared to the Wuhan strain was revealed. The findings support the direction of the N protein based vaccine design towards creation of the universal vaccine.