Author(s): Pletnev AG, Bray M, Hanley KA, Speicher J, Elkins R
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Abstract Langat virus (LGT), strain TP21, a naturally avirulent tick-borne flavivirus, was used to construct a chimeric candidate virus vaccine which contained LGT genes for premembrane (preM) and envelope (E) glycoprotein and all other sequences derived from dengue type 4 virus (DEN4). The live virus vaccine was developed to provide resistance to the highly virulent, closely related tick-borne flaviviruses that share protective E epitopes among themselves and with LGT. Toward that end the chimera, initially recovered in mosquito cells, was adapted to grow to high titer in qualified simian Vero cells. When inoculated intraperitoneally (i.p.), the Vero cell-adapted LGT TP21/DEN4 chimera remained completely attenuated for SCID mice. Significantly, the chimera protected immunocompetent mice against the most virulent tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). Subsequently, rhesus monkeys were immunized in groups of 4 with 10(5) or 10(7) PFU of LGT strain TP21, with 10(5) PFU of DEN4, or with 10(3), 10(5), or 10(7) PFU of the chimera. Each of the monkeys inoculated with DEN4 or LGT TP21 became viremic, and the duration of viremia ranged from 1 to 5 days. In contrast, viremia was detected in only 1 of 12 monkeys inoculated with the LGT TP21/DEN4 chimera; in this instance the level of viremia was at the limit of detection. All monkeys immunized with the chimera or LGT TP21 virus developed a moderate to high level of neutralizing antibodies against LGT TP21 as well as TBEV and were completely protected against subsequent LGT TP21 challenge, whereas monkeys previously immunized with DEN4 virus became viremic when challenged with LGT TP21. These observations suggest that the chimera is attenuated, immunogenic, and able to induce a protective immune response. Furthermore, passive transfer of serum from monkeys immunized with chimera conferred significant protection to mice subsequently challenged with 100 i.p. 50\% lethal doses of the highly virulent TBEV. The issue of transmissibility of the chimera by mosquitoes was addressed by inoculating a nonhematophagous mosquito, Toxorhynchites splendens, intrathoracically with the chimera or its DEN4 or LGT parent. Neither the LGT TP21/DEN4 vaccine candidate nor the wild-type LGT TP21 virus was able to infect this mosquito species, which is highly permissive for dengue viruses. Certain properties of the chimera, notably its attenuation for monkeys, its immunogenicity, and its failure to infect a highly permissive mosquito host, make it a promising vaccine candidate for use in immunization against severe disease caused by many tick-borne flaviviruses.
This article was published in J Virol
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense