Harrison Dulin, Ramya S. Barre, Duo Xu, Arrmund Neal, Edward Vizcarra, Jerald Chavez, Arzu Ulu, Myeon-Sik Yang, Siddiqur Rahman Khan, Keidy Wuang, Nikhil Bhakta, Chanvoraboth Chea, Emma H. Wilson, Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Rong Hai

Harnessing preexisting influenza virus-specific immunity increases antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2

  • Virology
  • Insect Science
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology

ABSTRACT In pandemic scenarios involving novel human pathogenic viruses, it is highly desirable that vaccines induce strong neutralizing antibodies as quickly as possible. However, current vaccine strategies require multiple immunization doses to produce high titers of neutralizing antibodies and are poorly protective after a single vaccination. We therefore wished to design a vaccine candidate that would induce increased protective immune responses following the first vaccine dose. We hypothesized that antibodies against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike glycoprotein could be increased by drawing upon immunity to a previous infection. We generated a fusion protein containing the influenza H1N1 PR8 virus nucleoprotein (NP) and the SARS-CoV-2 spike RBD. Mice with or without preexisting immunity to PR8 were then vaccinated with NP/RBD. We observed significantly increased SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in mice with PR8 immunity compared to mice without preexisting PR8 immunity. Vaccination with NP/RBD protected mice from SARS-CoV-2-induced morbidity and mortality after a single dose. Additionally, we compared SARS-CoV-2 virus titers in the lungs and nasal turbinates 4 days post-challenge of mice vaccinated with NP/RBD. SARS-CoV-2 virus was detectable in the lungs and nasal turbinate of mice without preexisting PR8 immunity, while SARS-CoV-2 virus was completely undetectable in mice with preexisting PR8 immunity. We also found that CD4-positive T cells in mice with preexisting immunity to PR8 play an essential role in producing the increased antibody response against RBD. This vaccine strategy potentially can be modified to target other pathogens of concern and offers extra value in future pandemic scenarios. IMPORTANCE Increased globalization and changes in human interactions with wild animals has increased the likelihood of the emergence of novel viruses with pandemic potential. Vaccines can be effective in preventing severe disease caused by pandemic viruses. However, it takes time to develop protective immunity via prime-boost vaccination. More effective vaccine designs should quickly induce protective immunity. We propose leveraging preexisting immunity to a different pathogen to boost protection against emerging viruses. We targeted SARS-CoV-2 as a representative pandemic virus and generated a fusion protein vaccine that combines the nucleoprotein from influenza A virus and the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Our vaccine design significantly increased the production of RBD-specific antibodies in mice that had previously been exposed to influenza virus, compared to those without previous exposure. This enhanced immunity reduced SARS-CoV-2 replication in mice. Our results offer a vaccine design that could be valuable in a future pandemic setting.

Need a simple solution for managing your BibTeX entries? Explore CiteDrive!

  • Web-based, modern reference management
  • Collaborate and share with fellow researchers
  • Integration with Overleaf
  • Comprehensive BibTeX/BibLaTeX support
  • Save articles and websites directly from your browser
  • Search for new articles from a database of tens of millions of references
Try out CiteDrive

More from our Archive