Monte Carlo simulation of SARS-CoV-2 radiation-induced inactivation for vaccine development

Ziad Francis, Sebastien Incerti, Sara Zein, Nathanael Lampe, Carlos Guzman, Marco Durante

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Received date: 20th May 2020

Immunization with an inactivated virus is one of the strategies currently being tested towards developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. One of the methods used to inactivate viruses is exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation to damage their nucleic acids. Although g-rays effectively induce lesions in the RNA, envelope proteins are also highly damaged in the process. This in turn may alter their antigenic properties, affecting their capacity to induce an adaptive immune response able to confer effective protection. Here, we modelled the impact of sparsely and densely ionizing radiation on SARS-CoV-2 using the Monte Carlo toolkit Geant4-DNA. With a realistic 3D target virus model, we calculated the expected number of lesions in the spike and membrane proteins, as well as in the viral RNA. We show that g-rays produce significant spike protein damage, but densely ionizing charged particles induce less membrane damage for the same level of RNA lesions, because a single ion traversal through the nuclear envelope is sufficient to inactivate the virus. We propose that accelerated charged particles produce inactivated viruses with little structural damage to envelope proteins, thereby representing a new and effective tool for developing vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and other enveloped viruses.

Read in full at arXiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on a preprint server, which is currently undergoing peer review at Scientific Reports. The findings have yet to be thoroughly evaluated, nor has a decision on ultimate publication been made. Therefore, the results reported should not be considered conclusive, and these findings should not be used to inform clinical practice, or public health policy, or be promoted as verified information.

Scientific Reports

Nature Research, Springer Nature