LSDV-Vectored SARS-CoV-2 S and N Vaccine Protects against Severe Clinical Disease in Hamsters

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic demonstrated the need for potent and broad-spectrum vaccines. This study reports the development and testing of a lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV)-vectored vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, utilizing stabilized spike and conserved nucleocapsid proteins as antigens to develop robust immunogenicity. Construction of the vaccine (LSDV-SARS2-S,N) was confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and sequencing. In vitro characterization confirmed that cells infected with LSDV-SARS2-S,N expressed SARS-CoV-2 spike and nucleocapsid protein. In BALB/c mice, the vaccine elicited high magnitude IFN-&gamma; ELISpot responses (spike: 2808 SFU/10<sup>6</sup> splenocytes) and neutralizing antibodies (ID<sub>50</sub> = 6552). Testing in hamsters, which emulate human COVID-19 disease progression, showed the development of high titers of neutralizing antibodies against the Wuhan and Delta SARS-CoV-2 variants (Wuhan ID<sub>50</sub> = 2905; Delta ID<sub>50</sub> = 4648). Additionally, hamsters vaccinated with LSDV-SARS2-S,N displayed significantly less weight loss, lung damage, and reduced viral RNA copies following SARS-CoV-2 infection with the Delta variant as compared to controls, demonstrating protection against disease. These data demonstrate that LSDV-vectored vaccines display promise as an effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and as a potential vaccine platform for communicable diseases in humans and animals. Further efficacy testing and immune response analysis, particularly in non-human primates, are warranted.