Immunogenicity of a highly attenuated MVA smallpox vaccine and protection against monkeypox

The potential use of smallpox as a biological weapon has led to the production and stockpiling of smallpox vaccine and the immunization of some healthcare workers. Another public health goal is the licensing of a safer vaccine that could benefit the millions of people advised not to take the current one because they or their contacts have increased susceptibility to severe vaccine side effects. As vaccines can no longer be tested for their ability to prevent smallpox, licensing will necessarily include comparative immunogenicity and protection studies in non-human primates.
Here we compare the highly attenuated modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) with the licensed Dryvax vaccine in a monkey model. After two doses of MVA or one dose of MVA followed by Dryvax, antibody binding and neutralizing titres and T-cell responses were equivalent or higher than those induced by Dryvax alone. After challenge with monkeypox virus, unimmunized animals developed more than 500 pustular skin lesions and became gravely ill or died, whereas vaccinated animals were healthy and asymptomatic, except for a small number of transient skin lesions in animals immunized only with MVA.

Smallpox vaccine-induced antibodies are necessary and sufficient for protection against monkeypox virus

Vaccination with live vaccinia virus affords long-lasting protection against variola virus, the agent of smallpox. Its mode of protection in humans, however, has not been clearly defined. Here we report that vaccinia-specific B-cell responses are essential for protection of macaques from monkeypox virus, a variola virus ortholog. Antibody-mediated depletion of B cells, but not CD4+ or CD8+ T cells, abrogated vaccine-induced protection from a lethal intravenous challenge with monkeypox virus. In addition, passive transfer of human vaccinia-neutralizing antibodies protected nonimmunized macaques from severe disease. Thus, vaccines able to induce long-lasting protective antibody responses may constitute realistic alternatives to the currently available smallpox vaccine (Dryvax).

Smallpox DNA vaccine protects nonhuman primates against lethal monkeypox.

Two decades after a worldwide vaccination campaign was used to successfully eradicate naturally occurring smallpox, the threat of bioterrorism has led to renewed vaccination programs. In addition, sporadic outbreaks of human monkeypox in Africa and a recent outbreak of human monkeypox in the U.S. have made it clear that naturally occurring zoonotic orthopoxvirus diseases remain a public health concern. Much of the threat posed by orthopoxviruses could be eliminated by vaccination; however, because the smallpox vaccine is a live orthopoxvirus vaccine (vaccinia virus) administered to the skin, the vaccine itself can pose a serious health risk.
Here, we demonstrate that rhesus macaques vaccinated with a DNA vaccine consisting of four vaccinia virus genes (L1R, A27L, A33R, and B5R) were protected from severe disease after an otherwise lethal challenge with monkeypox virus. Animals vaccinated with a single gene (L1R) which encodes a target of neutralizing antibodies developed severe disease but survived. This is the first demonstration that a subunit vaccine approach to smallpox-monkeypox immunization is feasible.

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