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COVID-19: Scientists in Thailand Using Tobacco Leaves to Develop Plant-based Vaccine to Fight Omicron

Testing of the COVID-19 vaccine initially began in 2020 with the next round of human trials due in the spring. Developers say the benefit of tobacco is that it can be grown almost anywhere in the world at low cost.

The low-nicotine Australian tobacco variety is different to the kind used in cigarettes.

Researchers say the speed at which it grows means it can be turned from a seed into a vaccine within a month and the technology is highly adaptable.

“It takes only 10 days for us to produce a prototype and… no more than three weeks to test whether that prototype works or not,” assistant professor Dr. Suthira Taychakhoonavudh, chief executive of Baiya Phytopharm, told Sky News.

“For example, right now, we are already working on the Omicron strains. We have the prototype and we’re testing it right now.”

The harvested leaves are used as a host to produce proteins which mimic the COVID-19 virus.

The leaves are blended and the protein is extracted.

When the resulting vaccine is injected into humans it stimulates antibodies which our bodies can use to fight the real virus in the future.

The earliest the vaccine would be cleared for use is late 2022.

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Prof. Bundhit Eua-arporn President of Chulalongkorn University