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Vaccine. 2012 Jul 6;30(32):4762-70. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.05.036. Epub 2012 May 27.

Simultaneous quantification of the viral antigens hemagglutinin and neuraminidase in influenza vaccines by LC-MSE.

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Centre for Vaccine Evaluation, Health Canada, 251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway, Locator 2201E, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa, ON K1A 0L2, Canada.


Current methods for quality control of inactivated influenza vaccines prior to regulatory approval include determining the hemagglutinin (HA) content by single radial immunodiffusion (SRID), verifying neuraminidase (NA) enzymatic activity, and demonstrating that the levels of the contaminant protein ovalbumin are below a set threshold of 1 μg/dose. The SRID assays require the availability of strain-specific reference HA antigens and antibodies, the production of which is a potential rate-limiting step in vaccine development and release, particularly during a pandemic. Immune responses induced by neuraminidase also contribute to protection from infection; however, the amounts of NA antigen in influenza vaccines are currently not quantified or standardized. Here, we report a method for vaccine analysis that yields simultaneous quantification of HA and NA levels much more rapidly than conventional HA quantification techniques, while providing additional valuable information on the total protein content. Enzymatically digested vaccine proteins were analyzed by LC-MS(E), a mass spectrometric technology that allows absolute quantification of analytes, including the HA and NA antigens, other structural influenza proteins and chicken egg proteins associated with the manufacturing process. This method has potential application for increasing the accuracy of reference antigen standards and for validating label claims for HA content in formulated vaccines. It can also be used to monitor NA and chicken egg protein content in order to monitor manufacturing consistency. While this is a useful methodology with potential for broad application, we also discuss herein some of the inherent limitations of this approach and the care and caution that must be taken in its use as a tool for absolute protein quantification. The variations in HA, NA and chicken egg protein concentrations in the vaccines analyzed in this study are indicative of the challenges associated with the current manufacturing and quality control testing procedures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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