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As of October 3, 2021, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, has infected more than 235 million people worldwide and claimed the lives of more than 4.8 million people. Despite the growing number of approved vaccines available, only 34 percent of the world population has been vaccinated for reasons including lack of availability and vaccine hesitancy. A new report finds that the antibodies produced following poliovirus vaccination offer protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

During development of the earliest SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, researchers found exploratory data to support the use of existing vaccines developed against other viruses for use in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection. The poliovirus vaccine was identified as possibly effective because it contains a protein called RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), which directs viral replication in polioviruses and coronaviruses. However, no studies have been conducted to measure the efficacy of polio-induced immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The researchers collected data from more than 300 participants between the ages of 18 and 80 years with no history of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. They collected a blood sample from participants before inoculation with the poliovirus vaccine and four weeks after. The researchers measured the concentration of antibodies against the RdRp protein and the ability of those antibodies to inhibit the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus using immunoassays.

During the four weeks between their baseline visit and follow-up visit, only five participants out of 298 reported testing positive for COVID-19; of these, all reported mild symptoms. No participants were hospitalized or died during the study and there were no serious reactions to the vaccine. Compared to their baseline blood sample, 85.2 percent of participants had an increase in anti-RdRp antibodies at four weeks post-vaccination. The researchers randomly selected 54 post-vaccine samples out of the 298 available. Among these samples, 94.4 percent exhibited efficacy in reducing replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

These data demonstrate that antibodies generated by exposure to the poliovirus vaccine are effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 replication, providing a safe, inexpensive, and widely-available alternative to SARS-CoV-2-specific vaccines.

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