Elicitation of Protective Antibodies against a Broad Panel of H1N1 Viruses in Ferrets Preimmune to Historical H1N1 Influenza Viruses.J Virol. 2017 12 15; 91(24)JV
Most preclinical animal studies test influenza vaccines in immunologically naive animal models, even though the results of vaccination may not accurately reflect the effectiveness of vaccine candidates in humans that have preexisting immunity to influenza. In this study, novel, broadly reactive influenza vaccine candidates were assessed in preimmune ferrets. These animals were infected with different H1N1 isolates before being vaccinated or infected with another influenza virus. Previously, our group has described the design and characterization of computationally optimized broadly reactive hemagglutinin (HA) antigens (COBRA) for H1N1 isolates. Vaccinating ferrets with virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines expressing COBRA HA proteins elicited antibodies with hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) activity against more H1N1 viruses in the panel than VLP vaccines expressing wild-type HA proteins. Specifically, ferrets infected with the 1986 virus and vaccinated with a single dose of the COBRA HA VLP vaccines elicited antibodies with HAI activity against 11 to 14 of the 15 H1N1 viruses isolated between 1934 and 2013. A subset of ferrets was infected with influenza viruses expressing the COBRA HA antigens. These COBRA preimmune ferrets had superior breadth of HAI activity after vaccination with COBRA HA VLP vaccines than COBRA preimmune ferrets vaccinated with VLP vaccines expressing wild-type HA proteins. Overall, priming naive ferrets with COBRA HA based viruses or using COBRA HA based vaccines to boost preexisting antibodies induced by wild-type H1N1 viruses, COBRA HA antigens elicited sera with the broadest HAI reactivity against multiple antigenic H1N1 viral variants. This is the first report demonstrating the effectiveness of a broadly reactive or universal influenza vaccine in a preimmune ferret model.IMPORTANCE Currently, many groups are testing influenza vaccine candidates to meet the challenge of developing a vaccine that elicits broadly reactive and long-lasting protective immune responses. The goal of these vaccines is to stimulate immune responses that react against most, if not all, circulating influenza strains, over a long period of time in all populations of people. Commonly, these experimental vaccines are tested in naive animal models that do not have anti-influenza immune responses; however, humans have preexisting immunity to influenza viral antigens, particularly antibodies to the HA and NA glycoproteins. Therefore, this study investigated how preexisting antibodies to historical influenza viruses influenced HAI-specific antibodies and protective efficacy using a broadly protective vaccine candidate.