The Potential of Influenza HA-Specific Immunity in Mitigating Lethality of Postinfluenza Pneumococcal Infections

Vaccines (Basel). 2019 Nov 17;7(4):187. doi: 10.3390/vaccines7040187.


: Influenza virus infections pre-dispose an individual to secondary pneumococcal infections, which represent a serious public health concern. Matching influenza vaccination was demonstrated helpful in preventing postinfluenza bacterial infections and associated illnesses in humans. Yet, the impact of influenza hemagglutinin (HA)-specific immunity alone in this dual-infection scenario remains elusive. In the present study, we assessed the protective effect of neutralizing and non-neutralizing anti-hemagglutinin immunity in a BALB/c influenza-pneumococcus superinfection model. Our immunogens were insect cell-expressed hemagglutinin-Gag virus-like particles that had been differentially-treated for the inactivation of bioprocess-related baculovirus impurities. We evaluated the potential of several formulations to restrain the primary infection with vaccine-matched or -mismatched influenza strains and secondary bacterial replication. In addition, we investigated the effect of anti-HA immunity on the interferon status in mouse lungs prior to bacterial challenge. In our experimental setup, neutralizing anti-HA immunity provided significant but incomplete protection from postinfluenza bacterial superinfection, despite effective control of viral replication. In view of this, it was surprising to observe a survival advantage with non-neutralizing adaptive immunity when using a heterologous viral challenge strain. Our findings suggest that both neutralizing and non-neutralizing anti-HA immunity can reduce disease and mortality caused by postinfluenza pneumococcal infections.

Keywords: Influenza; Streptococcus pneumoniae; VLP vaccine; anti-HA immunity; baculovirus inactivation; off-target vaccine effects; secondary bacterial infection; type I/II interferon.