Background: Traditional inactivated influenza vaccines are the type of vaccines that were most frequently developed for immunization against the highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza virus. However, clinical trials with inactivated influenza vaccines for H5N1 indicated that high doses and at least two immunizations are required for an effective immune response (Nicholson et al., 2001; Treanor, Campbell et al., 2006; Treanor, Schiff et al., 2006; Ehrlich et al., 2008). We investigated the safety and immunogenicity of a live attenuated H5N1 vaccine (delNS1-H5N1) lacking the interferon antagonist nonstructural protein 1 (NS1).
Methods: We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1 study in healthy adult participants who were randomly assigned at a 2:1 ratio to receive two immunizations of delNS1-H5N1 vaccine at 6.8 log10 50% tissue culture infectious doses (TCID50)/subject or 7.5 log10 TCID50/subject, or placebo.
Results: Intranasal vaccination with the live attenuated delNS1-H5N1 vaccine was safe and well tolerated. The most common adverse events identified were symptoms associated with mild influenza infections, such as increased body temperature (>37.0 °C), pharyngeal erythema, rhinitis and throat irritation, and were reported within 7 days after the first immunization. delNS1-H5N1 was able to induce significant vaccine-specific serum antibody titers even at the lower dose level of 6.8 log10 TCID50/subject. Seroconversion occurred in 75% of study participants after only one immunization with 7.5 log10 TCID50/subject. Vaccine-specific local IgA responses were observed in 41.7% of individuals that showed serum antibody responses after 2nd immunization.
Conclusions: We show that vaccination with a live attenuated H5N1 influenza vaccine lacking NS1 is safe and induces significant levels of vaccine-specific antibodies even after one immunization. The safety and immunogenicity data indicate that delNS1-H5N1 has the potential to fulfil the unmet need for an effective influenza vaccine in pandemic situations. (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT03745274).
Keywords: H5N1; Influenza; Intranasal; Live attenuated; NS1; Replication-deficient; Reverse genetics.
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