Author(s): Susan M Moore, Teri A Ricke, Rolan D Davis, Deborah J Briggs
The effect that the relatedness of the viral seed strain used to produce rabies vaccines has to the strain of challenge virus used to measure rabies virus neutralizing antibodies after vaccination was evaluated. Serum samples from 173 subjects vaccinated with either purified Vero cell rabies vaccine (PVRV), produced from the Pittman Moore (PM) seed strain of rabies virus, or purified chick embryo cell rabies vaccine (PCECV), produced from the Flury low egg passage (Flury-LEP) seed strain of rabies virus, were tested in parallel assays by RFFIT using a homologous and a heterologous testing system. In the homologous system, CVS-11 was used as the challenge virus in the assay to evaluate the humoral immune response in subjects vaccinated with PVRV and Flury-LEP was used for subjects vaccinated with PCECV. In the heterologous system, CVS-11 was used as the challenge virus in the assay to evaluate subjects vaccinated with PCECV and Flury-LEP was used for subjects vaccinated with PVRV. Although the difference in G protein homology between the CVS-11 and Flury-LEP rabies virus strains has been reported to be only 5.8%, the use of a homologous testing system resulted in approximately 30% higher titers for nearly two-thirds of the samples from both vaccine groups compared to a heterologous testing system. The evaluation of equivalence of the immune response after vaccination with the two different vaccines was dependent upon the type of testing system, homologous or heterologous, used to evaluate the level of rabies virus neutralizing antibodies. Equivalence between the vaccines was achieved when a homologous testing system was used but not when a heterologous testing system was used. The results of this study indicate that the strain of virus used in the biological assays to measure the level of rabies virus neutralizing antibodies after vaccination could profoundly influence the evaluation of rabies vaccines.