A single dose of a vesicular stomatitis virus-based influenza vaccine confers rapid protection against H5 viruses from different clades

NPJ Vaccines. 2020 Jan 10;5(1):4. doi: 10.1038/s41541-019-0155-z.


The avian influenza virus outbreak in 1997 highlighted the potential of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus to cause severe disease in humans. Therefore, effective vaccines against H5N1 viruses are needed to counter the potential threat of a global pandemic. We have previously developed a fast-acting and efficacious vaccine against Ebola virus (EBOV) using the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) platform. In this study, we generated recombinant VSV-based H5N1 influenza virus vectors to demonstrate the feasibility of this platform for a fast-acting pan-H5 influenza virus vaccine. We chose multiple approaches regarding antigen design and genome location to define a more optimized vaccine approach. After the VSV-based H5N1 influenza virus constructs were recovered and characterized in vitro, mice were vaccinated by a single dose or prime/boost regimen followed by challenge with a lethal dose of the homologous H5 clade 1 virus. We found that a single dose of VSV vectors expressing full-length hemagglutinin (HAfl) were sufficient to provide 100% protection. The vaccine vectors were fast-acting as demonstrated by uniform protection when administered 3 days prior to lethal challenge. Moreover, single vaccination induced cross-protective H5-specific antibodies and protected mice against lethal challenge with various H5 clade 2 viruses, highlighting the potential of the VSV-based HAfl as a pan-H5 influenza virus emergency vaccine.