DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A new COVID-19 vaccine was effective in animal studies at protecting its host and also lowering the airborne spread of the virus, Duke researchers say.

Duke Health on Thursday said the research from a team at the university was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The study led by Duke researcher Stephanie Langel showed the vaccine working through the mucosal tissue to neutralize the virus. The vaccine, developed by Vaxart, was tested in animals and designed to be taken by people in pill form.

“Considering most of the world is under-immunized — and this is especially true of children — the possibility that a vaccinated person with a breakthrough infection can spread COVID to unimmunized family or community members poses a public health risk,” Langel said. “There would be a substantial benefit to develop vaccines that not only protect against disease, but also reduce transmission to unvaccinated people.”

Studies using hamsters showed the vaccine triggered a “robust” antibody response in blood and the lungs.”

Researchers generated breakthrough infections in the animals by exposing them to high levels of the virus, but found they had lower amounts of infectious virus in their noses and lungs, and didn’t shed as many viral particles.

Unlike the vaccines currently being used are injected into the muscle, mucosal immunizations increase production of antibodies in the nose and lungs, making it less likely that a sneeze or cough will transmit infectious virus among the vaccinated.

“Our data demonstrate that mucosal immunization is a viable strategy to decrease the spread of COVID through airborne transmission,” Langel said.

The study received funding support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.