What are whole virus vaccines and how could they be used against COVID-19?
Whole virus vaccines use a weakened (attenuated) or deactivated form of the pathogen that causes a disease to trigger protective immunity to it. There are two types of whole virus vaccines. Live attenuated vaccines use a weakened form of the virus, which can still grow and replicate, but does not cause illness. Inactivated vaccines contain viruses whose genetic material has been destroyed by heat, chemicals or radiation so they cannot infect cells and replicate, but can still trigger an immune response.
Both are tried and tested vaccinated strategies, which form the basis of many existing vaccines – including those for yellow fever and measles (live attenuated vaccines), or seasonal influenza and hepatitis A (inactivated vaccines). Bacterial attenuated vaccines also exist, such as the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis.