Protection against infection is the hallmark of immunity and the basis of effective vaccination. For a variety of reasons there is a great demand to develop new, safer and more effective vaccine platforms. In this regard, while 'first-generation' DNA vaccines were poorly immunogenic, new genetic 'optimization' strategies and the application of in vivo electroporation (EP) have dramatically boosted their potency. We developed a highly optimized plasmid DNA vaccine that expresses the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) nucleocapsid protein (NP) and evaluated it using the LCMV challenge model, a gold standard for studying infection and immunity. When administered intramuscularly with EP, robust NP-specific cellular and humoral immune responses were elicited, the magnitudes of which approached those following acute LCMV infection. Furthermore, these responses were capable of providing 100% protection against a high-dose, normally lethal virus challenge. This is the first non-infectious vaccine conferring complete protective immunity up to 8 weeks after vaccination and demonstrates the potential of 'next-generation' DNA vaccines.
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