The potential use of variola virus, the etiological agent of smallpox, as a bioterror agent has heightened the interest in the reinitiation of smallpox vaccination. However, the currently licensed Dryvax vaccine, despite its documented efficacy in eradicating smallpox, is not optimal for the vaccination of contemporary populations with large numbers of individuals with immunodeficiencies because of severe adverse effects that can occur in such individuals. Therefore, the development of safer smallpox vaccines that can match the immunogenicity and efficacy of Dryvax for the vaccination of contemporary populations remains a priority. Using the Wyeth strain of vaccinia virus derived from the Dryvax vaccine, we generated a recombinant Wyeth interleukin-15 (IL-15) with integrated IL-15, a cytokine with potent immunostimulatory functions. The integration of IL-15 into the Wyeth strain resulted in a >1,000-fold reduction in lethality of vaccinated athymic nude mice and induced severalfold-higher cellular and humoral immune responses in wild-type mice that persisted longer than those induced by the parental Wyeth strain. The superior efficacy of Wyeth IL-15 was further demonstrated by the ability of vaccinated mice to fully survive a lethal intranasal challenge of virulent vaccinia virus even 10 months after vaccination, whereas all mice vaccinated with parental Wyeth strain succumbed. By integrating IL-15 into modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA), a virus currently under consideration as a substitute for the Dryvax vaccine, we developed a second vaccine candidate (MVA IL-15) with greater immunogenicity and efficacy than Dryvax. Thus, Wyeth IL-15 and MVA IL-15 viruses hold promise as more-efficacious and safe alternatives to the Dryvax vaccine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science