Giovanni Sarnelli © University of Naples 'Federico II'

Nextbiomics, a biotech company dedicated to the research and development of probiotic bacteria, has filed a patent application for a Covid-19 bacterial vaccine that is administered orally.

The vaccine differs from other vaccines in that it does not need to be injected, nor does it use a viral vector such as Adenovirus, but rather relies on the intrinsic ability of Escherichia Coli Nissle 1917 (a bacterium of the genus Escherichia isolated by German researcher Alfred Nissle in 1917).


“The vaccine is similar to other vaccines which are already licensed. That’s because it stimulates the immune response against the Spike protein which the coronavirus uses to infect cells,” Giovanni Sarnelli told the Italian news agency ANSA. Sarnelli is a professor of gastrointestinal diseases at Università Federico II in Italy. He is also the CEO of Nextbiomics, a spin-off of the same Naples-based university. “But it differs in that a probiotic bacterium is used as a vector that is already on the market and widely used.”

Vaccine pill

“The data from the preclinical phase conducted on mice,” says Giuseppe Esposito, professor of pharmacology at La Sapienza University (Rome), co-founder of Nextbiomics, “shows that the administration of engineered Escherichia Coli Nissle 1917 for five days a week for a period of 17 weeks was able to significantly stimulate the immune response by producing the IgM and IgG antibodies, without any side effects.”

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Oral administration does not require personnel or vaccination centers

Several pharmaceutical companies are said to be interested in using this discovery and experimental data to conduct clinical trials and bring the new vaccine to market.

If the “vaccine pill” does become a reality, it will offer several major advantages. Oral administration does not require personnel or vaccination centers. This reduces management and distribution costs, as well as the strain on public facilities. It also simplifies the vaccination process, as no refrigeration is required to store the pill. This is also good news for developing countries.

Also read about the fact that twenty percent of Dutch people do not want to take the corona vaccine out of a fear of needles.

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About the author

Author profile picture Ewout Kieckens is a Dutch journalist in Rome who writes about Italian lifestyle and culture. He has written books on diverse subjects such as the Vatican and Italian design. He is very interested in innovations, especially Italian contributions to progress.