Exploring the immunogenicity of an insect-specific virus vectored Zika vaccine candidate


Zika virus (ZIKV) is an important re-emerging flavivirus that presents a significant threat to human health worldwide. Despite its importance, no vaccines are approved for use in humans. Insect-specific flaviviruses (ISFVs) have recently garnered attention as an antigen presentation platform for vaccine development and diagnostic applications. Here, we further explore the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of a chimeric ISFV-Zika vaccine candidate, designated Aripo-Zika (ARPV/ZIKV). Our results show a near-linear relationship between increased dose and immunogenicity, with 1011 genome copies (i.e., 108 focus forming units) being the minimum dose required for protection from ZIKV-induced morbidity and mortality in mice. Including boosters did not significantly increase the short-term efficacy of ARPV/ZIKV-vaccinated mice. We also show that weanling mice derived from ARPV/ZIKV-vaccinated dams were completely protected from ZIKV-induced morbidity and mortality upon challenge, suggesting efficient transfer of maternally-derived protective antibodies. Finally, in vitro coinfection studies of ZIKV with Aripo virus (ARPV) and ARPV/ZIKV in African green monkey kidney cells (i.e., Vero-76) showed that ARPV and ARPV/ZIKV remain incapable of replication in vertebrate cells, despite the presence of active ZIKV replication. Altogether, our data continue to support ISFV-based vaccines, and specifically the ARPV backbone is a safe, immunogenic and effective vaccine strategy for flaviviruses.

Infectious Diseases