Safety and Immunogenicity of an Anti-Zika Virus DNA Vaccine - Preliminary Report

N Engl J Med. 2017 Oct 4;10.1056/NEJMoa1708120. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1708120. Online ahead of print.


Background Although Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is typically self-limiting, other associated complications such as congenital birth defects and the Guillain-Barré syndrome are well described. There are no approved vaccines against ZIKV infection. Methods In this phase 1, open-label clinical trial, we evaluated the safety and immunogenicity of a synthetic, consensus DNA vaccine (GLS-5700) encoding the ZIKV premembrane and envelope proteins in two groups of 20 participants each. The participants received either 1 mg or 2 mg of vaccine intradermally, with each injection followed by electroporation (the use of a pulsed electric field to introduce the DNA sequence into cells) at baseline, 4 weeks, and 12 weeks. Results The median age of the participants was 38 years, and 60% were women; 78% were white, and 22% black; in addition, 30% were Hispanic. At the interim analysis at 14 weeks (i.e., after the third dose of vaccine), no serious adverse events were reported. Local reactions at the vaccination site (e.g., injection-site pain, redness, swelling, and itching) occurred in approximately 50% of the participants. After the third dose of vaccine, binding antibodies (as measured on enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) were detected in all the participants, with geometric mean titers of 1642 and 2871 in recipients of 1 mg and 2 mg of vaccine, respectively. Neutralizing antibodies developed in 62% of the samples on Vero-cell assay. On neuronal-cell assay, there was 90% inhibition of ZIKV infection in 70% of the serum samples and 50% inhibition in 95% of the samples. The intraperitoneal injection of postvaccination serum protected 103 of 112 IFNAR knockout mice (bred with deletion of genes encoding interferon-α and interferon-β receptors) (92%) that were challenged with a lethal dose of ZIKV-PR209 strain; none of the mice receiving baseline serum survived the challenge. Survival was independent of the neutralization titer. Conclusions In this phase 1, open-label clinical trial, a DNA vaccine elicited anti-ZIKV immune responses. Further studies are needed to better evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. (Funded by GeneOne Life Science and others; ZIKA-001 number, NCT02809443 .).

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