Author(s): Nel LH, Niezgoda M, Hanlon CA, Morril PA, Yager PA,
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Abstract Mokola virus, a rabies-related virus, has been reported to date from the African continent only. Like rabies virus, it is highly pathogenic, causes acute encephalitis, and zoonotic events have been documented. Although believed to be rare, there has been an unexplained increase in the number of isolations of the virus in South Africa in recent years. We have cloned and sequenced the glycoprotein (G) and nucleoprotein (N) genes from a South African Mokola virus, and used these in the construction of different DNA vaccines for immunization against Mokola virus. Four vaccines, utilizing different promoters and DNA backbone compositions, were generated and compared for efficacy in protection against Mokola virus. In one of these, both the Mokola virus G and N genes were co-expressed. Two of the single G-expressing DNA vaccines (based on pSG5 and pCI-neo, respectively) protected laboratory mice against lethal challenge, despite major differences in their promoters. However, neither vaccine was fully protective in a single immunization only. Serological assays confirmed titers of virus-neutralizing antibodies after immunization, which increased upon booster vaccine administration. A third construct (based on pBudCE4) was less effective in inducing a protective immune response, despite employing a strong CMV enhancer/promoter also used in the pCI-neo plasmid. Dual expression of Mokola virus G and N genes in pBudCE4 did not enhance its efficacy, under the conditions described. In addition, no significant utility could be demonstrated for a combined prime-boost approach, as no cross-protective immunity was observed against rabies or Mokola viruses from the use of pSG5-mokG or vaccinia-rabies glycoprotein recombinant virus vaccines, respectively, even though both vaccines provided 60-100\% protection against homologous virus challenge.
This article was published in Vaccine
and referenced in Journal of Vaccines & Vaccination