The potential for smallpox to be disseminated in a bioterror attack has prompted development of new, safer smallpox vaccination strategies. We designed and evaluated immunogenicity and efficacy of a T-cell epitope vaccine based on conserved and antigenic vaccinia/variola sequences, identified using bioinformatics and immunological methods. Vaccination in HLA transgenic mice using a DNA-prime/peptide-boost strategy elicited significant T cell responses to multiple epitopes. No antibody response pre-challenge was observed, neither against whole vaccinia antigens nor vaccine epitope peptides. Remarkably, 100% of vaccinated mice survived lethal vaccinia challenge, demonstrating that protective immunity to vaccinia does not require B cell priming.
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