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Immunol Rev. 2011 Jan;239(1):8-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2010.00975.x.

Smallpox vaccines: targets of protective immunity.

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Laboratory of Viral Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-3210, USA.


The eradication of smallpox, one of the great triumphs of medicine, was accomplished through the prophylactic administration of live vaccinia virus, a comparatively benign relative of variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox. Nevertheless, recent fears that variola virus may be used as a biological weapon together with the present susceptibility of unimmunized populations have spurred the development of new-generation vaccines that are safer than the original and can be produced by modern methods. Predicting the efficacy of such vaccines in the absence of human smallpox, however, depends on understanding the correlates of protection. This review outlines the biology of poxviruses with particular relevance to vaccine development, describes protein targets of humoral and cellular immunity, compares animal models of orthopoxvirus disease with human smallpox, and considers the status of second- and third-generation smallpox vaccines.

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