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Live, attenuated RNA virus vaccines are efficacious but subject to reversion to virulence. Among RNA viruses, replication fidelity is recognized as a key determinant of virulence and escape from antiviral therapy; increased fidelity is attenuating for some viruses. Coronavirus (CoV) replication fidelity is approximately 20-fold greater than that of other RNA viruses and is mediated by a 3'→5' exonuclease (ExoN) activity that probably functions in RNA proofreading. In this study we demonstrate that engineered inactivation of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV ExoN activity results in a stable mutator phenotype with profoundly decreased fidelity in vivo and attenuation of pathogenesis in young, aged and immunocompromised mice. The ExoN inactivation genotype and mutator phenotype are stable and do not revert to virulence, even after serial passage or long-term persistent infection in vivo. ExoN inactivation has potential for broad applications in the stable attenuation of CoVs and, perhaps, other RNA viruses.
Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a recently discovered paramyxovirus that causes upper and lower respiratory tract infections in infants, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals worldwide. Here, we developed Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus replicon particles (VRPs) encoding hMPV fusion (F) or attachment (G) glycoproteins and evaluated the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of these vaccine candidates in mice and cotton rats. VRPs encoding hMPV F protein, when administered intranasally, induced F-specific virus-neutralizing antibodies in serum and immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies in secretions at the respiratory mucosa. Challenge virus replication was reduced significantly in both the upper and lower respiratory tracts following intranasal hMPV challenge in these animals. However, vaccination with hMPV G protein VRPs did not induce neutralizing antibodies or protect animals from hMPV challenge. Close examination of the histopathology of the lungs of VRP-MPV F-vaccinated animals following hMPV challenge revealed no enhancement of inflammation or mucus production. Aberrant cytokine gene expression was not detected in these animals. Together, these results represent an important first step toward the use of VRPs encoding hMPV F proteins as a prophylactic vaccine for hMPV.
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a serious pediatric pathogen for which there is currently no clinically approved vaccine. This report describes the design and testing of a new RSV vaccine construct (rSV-RSV-F), created by the recombination of an RSV F sequence with the murine parainfluenza virus-type 1 (Sendai virus, SV) genome. SV was selected as the vaccine backbone for this study, because it has previously been shown to elicit high-magnitude, durable immune activities in animal studies and has advanced to human safety trials as a xenogenic vaccine for human parainfluenza virus-type 1 (hPIV-1). Cells infected with the recombinant SV expressed RSV F protein, but F was not incorporated into progeny SV virions. When cotton rats were inoculated with the vaccine, high-titer RSV-binding and neutralizing antibodies as well as interferon-gamma-producing T-cells were induced. Most striking was the protection against intra-nasal RSV challenge conferred by the vaccine. The rSV-RSV-F construct was also tested as a mixture with a second SV construct expressing the RSV G protein, but no clear advantage was demonstrated by combining the two vaccines. As a final analysis, the efficacy of the rSV-RSV-F vaccine was tested against an array of RSV isolates. Results showed that neutralizing and protective responses were effective against RSV isolates of both A and B subtypes. Together, experimental results encourage promotion of this recombinant SV construct as a vaccine candidate for the prevention of RSV in humans.
Mammalian orthoreoviruses (reoviruses) are highly tractable experimental models for studies of double-stranded (ds) RNA virus replication and pathogenesis. Reoviruses infect respiratory and intestinal epithelium and disseminate systemically in newborn animals. Until now, a strategy to rescue infectious virus from cloned cDNA has not been available for any member of the Reoviridae family of dsRNA viruses. We report the generation of viable reovirus following plasmid transfection of murine L929 (L) cells using a strategy free of helper virus and independent of selection. We used the reovirus reverse genetics system to introduce mutations into viral capsid proteins sigma1 and sigma3 and to rescue a virus that expresses a green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgene, thus demonstrating the tractability of this technology. The plasmid-based reverse genetics approach described here can be exploited for studies of reovirus replication and pathogenesis and used to develop reovirus as a vaccine vector.
Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a recently described paramyxovirus that is a major cause of upper and lower respiratory infection in children and adults worldwide. A safe and effective vaccine could decrease the burden of disease associated with this novel pathogen. We previously reported the development of the cotton rat model of hMPV infection and pathogenesis (J. V. Williams et al., J. Virol. 79:10944-10951, 2005). We report here the immunogenicity of an hMPV fusion (F) protein in this model. We constructed DNA plasmids that exhibited high levels of expression of hMPV F in mammalian cells (DNA-F). These constructs were used to develop a novel strategy to produce highly pure, soluble hMPV F protein lacking the transmembrane domain (FDeltaTM). We then immunized cotton rats at 0 and 14 days with either control vector, DNA-F alone, DNA-F followed by FDeltaTM protein, or FDeltaTM alone. All groups were challenged intranasally at 28 days with live hMPV. All three groups that received some form of hMPV F immunization mounted neutralizing antibody responses and exhibited partial protection against virus shedding in the lungs compared to controls. The FDeltaTM-immunized animals showed the greatest degree of protection (>1,500-fold reduction in lung virus titer). All three immunized groups showed a modest reduction of nasal virus shedding. Neither evidence of a Th2-type response nor increased lung pathology were present in the immunized animals. We conclude that sequence-optimized hMPV F protein protects against hMPV infection when delivered as either a DNA or a protein vaccine in cotton rats.
BACKGROUND - Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a newly identified paramyxovirus that appears to be one of the most significant and common viral infections in humans. The virus, first isolated in 2001, is a clear cause of lower respiratory tract disease in both the very young and the frail elderly. The virus causes acute wheezing in children or, less commonly, croup or pneumonia.
METHODS/RESULTS - Molecular epidemiology studies have shown that field strains exhibit sufficient sequence diversity to designate 2 subgroups of circulating viruses. Small animal and nonhuman primate models of infection have been described, which will allow studies of pathogenesis and immunity. Recombinant viruses have already been generated by several groups using reverse genetics, which facilitates the study of the biology of the virus and the generation of live attenuated vaccine candidates.
CONCLUSIONS - Ongoing research promises to elucidate the molecular basis for pathogenesis and immunity of human metapneumovirus infections and to pave the way for rapid vaccine development.
BACKGROUND - A novel coronavirus has recently been identified as the cause of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV). The ability of this family of positive strand RNA viruses to move between species and cause severe disease in humans, with the potential for pandemic spread, has been confirmed.
METHODS - An understanding of the disease and its pathogenesis and the genetics of coronavirus infections, as well as strategies to treat or prevent coronavirus infections, are essential. The history of coronavirus vaccines and the occurrence of laboratory-associated SARS-CoV infections underscore the need for stably attenuated strains of SARS-CoV and other coronaviruses.
RESULTS - Rapid progress has been made in understanding the clinical disease of SARS in adults and children. In adults, systemic infection with clinical and biochemical abnormalities, as well as respiratory infection, may be the rule. SARS is much milder in children younger than 12 years old than it is in adolescents and adults. In children age 12 years and younger, symptoms are generally nonspecific and cold-like. Numerous approaches to the development of SARS-CoV vaccines have been undertaken, and there is evidence that antibodies to the spike protein may be protective from replication and pathology in animal models.
CONCLUSIONS - The availability of reverse genetic systems has made it possible to engineer and recover coronavirus variants that contain multiple genetically stable mutations that grow well in culture but are attenuated for replication, virulence or both. Such variants will be platforms for the safe growth of SARS-CoV and candidates for live attenuated vaccines.
A live-attenuated, intranasal respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) candidate vaccine, cpts-248/404, was tested in phase 1 trials in 114 children, including 37 1-2-month-old infants-a target age for RSV vaccines. The cpts-248/404 vaccine was infectious at 104 and 105 plaque-forming units in RSV-naive children and was broadly immunogenic in children >6 months old. Serum and nasal antibody responses in 1-2 month olds were restricted to IgA, had a dominant response to RSV G protein, and had no increase in neutralizing activity. Nevertheless, there was restricted virus shedding on challenge with a second vaccine dose and preliminary evidence for protection from symptomatic disease on natural reexposure. The cpts-248/404 vaccine candidate did not cause fever or lower respiratory tract illness. In the youngest infants, however, cpts-248/404 was unacceptable because of upper respiratory tract congestion associated with peak virus recovery. A live attenuated RSV vaccine for the youngest infant will use cpts-248/404 modified by additional attenuating mutations.
The cold-adapted (ca), temperature-sensitive (ts) respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) subgroup B vaccine candidate, designated RSV 2B33F, was found previously to be restricted in replication, immunogenic, and protective against wild-type (wt) virus challenge in rodents and African green monkeys. We sought to investigate the level of attenuation, immunogenicity and genetic stability of this vaccine candidate in seronegative chimpanzees. The 2B33F vaccine candidate was attenuated in chimpanzees and manifested a ten- and 1000-fold restriction in replication in the upper and lower respiratory tracts respectively, compared with its wt RSV 2B parent virus. Despite this attenuation, chimpanzees immunized with RSV 2B33F were completely resistant to respiratory tract disease and virus replication upon challenge with wt virus. The ts phenotype of the RSV 2B33F mutant exhibited some alteration during replication in vivo in three of four chimpanzees tested. Virus present in nasopharyngeal swab or tracheal lavage secretions of these three chimpanzees was biologically cloned by plaque passage in Vero cells at permissive temperature. The plaque progeny retained the ts phenotype, but uniformly produced plaques at 39 and 40 degrees C to a level intermediate between that of the 2B33F input virus and the 2B wt parent virus, indicating that partial loss of the level of temperature sensitivity occurred following replication in vivo. The implications of these findings for RSV vaccine development are discussed.