The identification of an effective and tolerable delivery method is a necessity for the success of DNA vaccines in the clinic. This manuscript describes the development and validation of a multi-headed intradermal electroporation device which would be applicable for delivering multiple DNA vaccine plasmids simultaneously but spatially separated. Reporter gene plasmids expressing green and red fluorescent proteins were used to demonstrate the impact of spatial separation on DNA delivery to increase the number of transfected cells and avoid interference through visible expression patterns. To investigate the impact of plasmid interference on immunogenicity, a disease target was investigated where issues with multi-valent vaccines had been previously described. DNA-based Hantaan and Puumala virus vaccines were delivered separately or as a combination and the effect of multi-valence was determined by appropriate assays. While a negative impact was observed for both antigenic vaccines when delivered together, these effects were mitigated when the vaccine was delivered using the multi-head device. We also demonstrate how the multi-head device facilitates higher dose delivery to the skin resulting in improved immune responses. This new multi-head platform device is an efficient, tolerable and non-invasive method to deliver multiple plasmid DNA constructs simultaneously allowing the tailoring of delivery sites for combination vaccines. Additionally, this device would allow the delivery of multi-plasmid vaccine formulations without risk of impacted immune responses through interference. Such a low-cost, easy to use device platform for the delivery of multi-agent DNA vaccines would have direct applications by the military and healthcare sectors for mass vaccination purposes.
DNA vaccines can be constructed to produce specific immunogens while avoiding the risks associated with propagating infectious viruses. Plasmid DNA vaccines have well established manufacturing procedures and are safe in that they are replication defective, cannot revert to virulence and cannot be transmitted from person-to-person or into the environment. In addition, DNA vaccines can be combined to form multivalent formulations and can be delivered by a variety of methods. Because of these numerous advantages, we have developed DNA vaccines expressing the envelope glycoprotein genes of hantaviruses causing hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). We have demonstrated that these DNA vaccines elicit neutralizing antibodies in multiple laboratory animal species when delivered to skin or muscle tissues. Moreover, these vaccines delivered as active vaccines or passive vaccines (e.g., transfer of sera from vaccinated rabbits or nonhuman primates), protected hamsters from infection with HFRS-causing hantaviruses. Early clinical studies of HFRS vaccines expressing Hantaan virus or Puumala virus genes have been completed and show promise for further development. Despite these advantages, issues relating to inconsistent immunogenicity and immune interference remain to be addressed.
For enveloped viruses, fusion of the viral envelope with a cellular membrane is critical for a productive infection to occur. This fusion process is mediated by at least three classes of fusion proteins (Class I, II, and III) based on the protein sequence and structure. For Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), the glycoprotein Gc (Class II fusion protein) mediates this fusion event following entry into the endocytic pathway, allowing the viral genome access to the cell cytoplasm. Here, we show that peptides analogous to the RVFV Gc stem region inhibited RVFV infectivity in cell culture by inhibiting the fusion process. Further, we show that infectivity can be inhibited for diverse, unrelated RNA viruses that have Class I (Ebola virus), Class II (Andes virus), or Class III (vesicular stomatitis virus) fusion proteins using this single peptide. Our findings are consistent with an inhibition mechanism similar to that proposed for stem peptide fusion inhibitors of dengue virus in which the RVFV inhibitory peptide first binds to both the virion and cell membranes, allowing it to traffic with the virus into the endocytic pathway. Upon acidification and rearrangement of Gc, the peptide is then able to specifically bind to Gc and prevent fusion of the viral and endocytic membranes, thus inhibiting viral infection. These results could provide novel insights into conserved features among the three classes of viral fusion proteins and offer direction for the future development of broadly active fusion inhibitors.
Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) are the 2 widespread viral hemorrhagic fevers occurring in Europe. HFRS is distributed throughout Europe, and CCHF has been reported mainly on the Balkan Peninsula and Russia. Both hemorrhagic fevers are endemic in Bulgaria. We investigated to what extent acute undifferentiated febrile illness in Bulgaria could be due to hantaviruses or to CCHF virus. Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), we tested serum samples from 527 patients with acute febrile illness for antibodies against hantaviruses and CCHF virus. Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies against hantaviruses were detected in 15 (2.8%) of the patients. Of the 15 hantavirus-positive patients, 8 (1.5%) were positive for Dobrava virus (DOBV), 5 (0.9%) were positive for Puumala virus (PUUV), and the remaining 2 were positive for both hantaviruses. A plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT) confirmed 4 of the 10 DOBV-positive samples. PRNT was negative for all PUUV-positive samples. Serologic evidence of recent CCHF virus infection was found in 13 (2.5%) of the patients. Interestingly, HFRS and CCHF were not only detected in well-known endemic areas of Bulgaria but also in nonendemic regions. Our results suggested that in endemic countries, CCHF and/or HFRS might appear as a nonspecific febrile illness in a certain proportion of patients. Physicians must be aware of possible viral hemorrhagic fever cases, even if hemorrhages or renal impairment are not manifested.
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