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Vaccine. 2012 Feb 14;30(8):1445-52. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.12.134. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Evaluation of Lassa virus vaccine immunogenicity in a CBA/J-ML29 mouse model.

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Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, United States.


Lassa fever (LF) is one of the most prevalent viral hemorrhagic fevers in West Africa responsible for thousands of deaths annually. The BSL-4 containment requirement and lack of small animal model to evaluate Lassa virus (LASV)-specific cell-mediated immunity (CMI) complicate development of effective LF vaccines. Here we have described a CBA/J-ML29 model allowing evaluation of LASV-specific CMI responses in mice. This model is based on Mopeia virus reassortant clone ML29, an attractive immunogenic surrogate for LASV. A single intraperitoneal (i.p.) immunization of CBA/J mice with ML29 protected animals against a lethal homologous intracerebral (i.c.) challenge with 588 LD(50). The ML29-immunized mice displayed negligible levels of LASV-specific antibody titers, but LASV-specific CMI responses were detectable early and peaked on day 8-10 after immunization. A T cell cytotoxicity assay in vivo showed a correlation between LASV-specific cytotoxicity and the timing of protection induced by the ML29 immunization. Notably, CBA/J mice that received CD8+ T cell-depleted splenocytes from ML29-immunized donors all succumbed to a lethal i.c. challenge, demonstrating that CD8+ T cells are critical in protection. The CBA/J-ML29 model can be useful immunological tool for the preliminary evaluation of immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccine candidates against LASV outside of BSL-4 containment facilities.

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