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Vaccine. 2009 Apr 28;27(19):2594-602. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.02.045. Epub 2009 Feb 24.

T-cell vaccines that elicit effective immune responses against HCV in chimpanzees may create greater immune pressure for viral mutation.

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Laboratory of Hepatitis Viruses, Division of Viral Products, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


A prime/boost vaccine strategy that transfects antigen-presenting cells using ligand-modified immunoliposomes to efficiently deliver plasmid DNA, followed by boosting with non-replicating recombinant adenovirus was used in chimpanzees to generate HCV-specific memory T-cells. Three chimpanzees (two vaccines, one control) were immunized with immunoliposomes complexed with DNA expressing NS3-NS5B or complexed with empty vector. Animals were boosted with adenovirus expressing NS3-NS5B, or non-recombinant adenovirus (control). Using liposome delivery we were able to obtain specific HCV responses following DNA priming in the chimpanzees. This data and mouse immunization studies confirm this as a more efficient delivery system than direct intramuscular inoculations with naked DNA. Subsequent to the adenovirus boost significant increases in peripheral HCV-specific T-cell responses and intrahepatic IFN-gamma and CD3varepsilon mRNA were also observed in the two vaccinated animals. Following challenge (100 CID(50)) both vaccinated animals showed immediate and significant control of viral replication (peak titers 3.7x10(4) and 9x10(3)IU/mL at weeks 1 and 2), which coincided with increases in HCV-specific T-cell responses. Viral kinetics in the control animal were comparable to historical controls with exponential increases in titer during the first several weeks. One vaccinated animal developed a low-level persistent infection (2x10(3)IU/mL) which correlated with a decrease in HCV-specific T-cell responses. Circulating virus isolated from both vaccinated animals showed approximately 2-fold greater nonsynonymous mutation rates compared to controls and the nonsynonymous/synonymous mutation rate ratio was indicative of positive selection. These data suggest that although T-cell vaccines can induce immune responses capable of controlling HCV, they also induce high levels of immune pressure for the potential selection of escape mutants.

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