The antigenically conserved hemagglutinin stalk region is a target for universal influenza virus vaccines since antibodies against it can provide broad protection against influenza viruses of different subtypes. We tested a universal influenza virus vaccination regimen based on sequential immunization with chimeric hemagglutinin (HA) containing viruses in a swine influenza virus pig model with maternal antibodies against pandemic H1N1. Vaccines were administered as live attenuated virus or inactivated influenza virus split vaccine (+/- Emulsigen adjuvant). As controls, we included groups that received trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine that contained pandemic H1N1 antigens, inactivated adjuvanted H1N2 vaccine (control group for vaccine associated enhanced respiratory disease in the pig model) or mock-vaccination. No induction of H1 head or stalk-specific antibody responses was observed upon vaccination, while responses against H3 and influenza B HA were elicited in the group vaccinated with the trivalent vaccine. Four weeks post vaccination, pigs were intratracheally challenged with pandemic H1N1 virus and euthanized 5 days after challenge. Despite the lack of detectable anti-stalk immunity, the chimeric hemagglutinin vaccine resulted in better clinical outcomes compared to control groups.
Keywords: chimeric HA; influenza; pigs; universal vaccine; vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease (VAERD).