Off-target effects of an insect cell-expressed influenza HA-pseudotyped Gag-VLP preparation in limiting postinfluenza Staphylococcus aureus infections

Vaccine. 2020 Jan 22;38(4):859-867. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.10.083. Epub 2019 Nov 9.


Clinical and historical data underscore the ability of influenza viruses to ally with Staphylococcus aureus and predispose the host for secondary bacterial pneumonia, which is a leading cause of influenza-associated mortality. This is fundamental because no vaccine for S. aureus is available and the number of antibiotic-resistant strains is alarmingly rising. Hence, this leaves influenza vaccination the only strategy to prevent postinfluenza staphylococcal infections. In the present work, we assessed the off-target effects of a Tnms42 insect cell-expressed BEI-treated Gag-VLP preparation expressing the HA of A/Puerto Rico/8/1934 (H1N1) in preventing S. aureus superinfection in mice pre-infected with a homologous or heterologous H1N1 viral challenge strain. Our results demonstrate that matched anti-hemagglutinin immunity elicited by a VLP preparation may suffice to prevent morbidity and mortality caused by lethal secondary bacterial infection. This effect was observed even when employing a single low antigen dose of 50 ng HA per animal. However, induction of anti-hemagglutinin immunity alone was not helpful in inhibiting heterologous viral replication and subsequent bacterial infection. Our results indicate the potential of the VLP vaccine approach in terms of immunogenicity but suggest that anti-HA immunity should not be considered as the sole preventive method for combatting influenza and postinfluenza bacterial infections.

Keywords: Influenza; Secondary bacterial infection; Staphylococcus aureus; VLP vaccine; Vaccine off-target effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / immunology
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology
  • Influenza, Human / complications
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Insecta
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Staphylococcal Infections / prevention & control*
  • Superinfection / prevention & control
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle / administration & dosage*
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle / immunology
  • Virus Replication / immunology


  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle