Evaluation of Cross-Immunity to the Mpox Virus Due to Historic Smallpox Vaccination

Vaccines (Basel). 2023 Sep 28;11(10):1541. doi: 10.3390/vaccines11101541.


When the Mpox virus (MPXV) began spreading globally in 2022, it became critical to evaluate whether residual immunity from smallpox vaccination provided cross-protection. To assess the cross-immune response to MPXV, we collected serum samples (n = 97) and PBMCs (n = 30) from healthy-donors, either born before 1974 and reporting smallpox vaccination during childhood or born after 1975 and not vaccinated with Vaccinia virus (VACV)-based vaccines. We evaluated the levels of anti-MPXV IgG and neutralizing antibodies (Nabs) and the presence of a T cell response against MPXV. We found anti-MPXV IgG and Nabs in 60 (89.6%) and 40 (70.1%) vaccinated individuals, respectively. We observed a T cell response to Orthopoxviruses and MPXV peptide pools in 30% of vaccinated individuals. We thus show that a high proportion of subjects who received the smallpox vaccine 40 to 60 years ago have humoral cross-immunity, while the T-cell-specific response against MPXV was observed in a smaller group (30%) of vaccinated individuals. This study, combined with information on immunity developed during natural infection or the administration of current vaccines, will contribute to a better understanding of humoral and cellular responses against MPXV.

Keywords: Mpox virus; Orthopoxvirus; T cell response; adaptive immunity; neutralizing antibodies; smallpox-vaccine.