Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is responsible for VEE epidemics that occur in South and Central America and the U.S. The VEEV envelope contains two glycoproteins E1 (mediates cell membrane fusion) and E2 (binds receptor and elicits virus neutralizing antibodies). Previously we constructed E1 and E2 epitope maps using murine monoclonal antibodies (mMAbs). Six E2 epitopes (E2c,d,e,f,g,h) bound VEEV-neutralizing antibody and mapped to amino acids (aa) 182–207. Nothing is known about the human antibody repertoire to VEEV or epitopes that engage human virus-neutralizing antibodies. There is no specific treatment for VEE; however virus-neutralizing mMAbs are potent protective and therapeutic agents for mice challenged with VEEV by either peripheral or aerosol routes. Therefore, fully human MAbs (hMAbs) with virus-neutralizing activity should be useful for prevention or clinical treatment of human VEE.
We used phage-display to isolate VEEV-specific hFabs from human bone marrow donors. These hFabs were characterized by sequencing, specificity testing, VEEV subtype cross-reactivity using indirect ELISA, and in vitro virus neutralization capacity. One E2-specific neutralizing hFAb, F5n, was converted into IgG, and its binding site was identified using competitive ELISA with mMAbs and by preparing and sequencing antibody neutralization-escape variants.
Using 11 VEEV-reactive hFabs we constructed the first human epitope map for the alphaviral surface proteins E1 and E2. We identified an important neutralization-associated epitope unique to the human immune response, E2 aa115–119. Using a 9 Å resolution cryo-electron microscopy map of the Sindbis virus E2 protein, we showed the probable surface location of this human VEEV epitope.
The VEEV-neutralizing capacity of the hMAb F5 nIgG is similar to that exhibited by the humanized mMAb Hy4 IgG. The Hy4 IgG has been shown to limit VEEV infection in mice both prophylactically and therapeutically. Administration of a cocktail of F5n and Hy4 IgGs, which bind to different E2 epitopes, could provide enhanced prophylaxis or immunotherapy for VEEV, while reducing the possibility of generating possibly harmful virus neutralization-escape variants in vivo.
Although the murine immune response to Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is well-characterized, little is known about the human antibody response to VEEV. In this study we used phage display technology to isolate a panel of 11 VEEV-specfic Fabs from two human donors. Seven E2-specific and four E1-specific Fabs were identified and mapped to five E2 epitopes and three E1 epitopes. Two neutralizing Fabs were isolated, E2-specific F5 and E1-specific L1A7, although the neutralizing capacity of L1A7 was 300-fold lower than F5. F5 Fab was expressed as a complete IgG1 molecule, F5 native (n) IgG. Neutralization-escape VEEV variants for F5 nIgG were isolated and their structural genes were sequenced to determine the theoretical binding site of F5. Based on this sequence analysis as well as the ability of F5 to neutralize four neutralization-escape variants of anti-VEEV murine monoclonal antibodies (mapped to E2 amino acids 182–207), a unique neutralization domain on E2 was identified and mapped to E2 amino acids 115–119.
A multisystem approach was used to assess the efficiency of several methods for inactivation of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) vaccine candidates. A combination of diverse assays (plaque, in vitro cytopathology and mouse neurovirulence) was used to verify virus inactivation, along with the use of a specific ELISA to measure retention of VEEV envelope glycoprotein epitopes in the development of several inactivated VEEV candidate vaccines derived from an attenuated strain of VEEV (V3526). Incubation of V3526 aliquots at temperatures in excess of 64°C for periods >30 minutes inactivated the virus, but substantially reduced VEEV specific monoclonal antibody binding of the inactivated material. In contrast, V3526 treated either with formalin at concentrations of 0.1% or 0.5% v/v for 4 or 24 hours, or irradiated with 50 kilogray gamma radiation rendered the virus non-infectious while retaining significant levels of monoclonal antibody binding. Loss of infectivity of both the formalin inactivated (fV3526) and gamma irradiated (gV3526) preparations was confirmed via five successive blind passages on BHK-21 cells. Similarly, loss of neurovirulence for fV3526 and gV3526 was demonstrated via intracerebral inoculation of suckling BALB/c mice. Excellent protection against subcutaneous challenge with VEEV IA/B Trinidad donkey strain was demonstrated using a two dose immunization regimen with either fV3526 or gV3526. The combination of in vitro and in vivo assays provides a practical approach to optimize manufacturing process parameters for development of other inactivated viral vaccines.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV); Formalin inactivated vaccines; Gamma irradiated vaccines; Neurovirulence; Alphavirus
We evaluated the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of a DNA vaccine expressing codon-optimized envelope glycoprotein genes of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) when delivered by intramuscular electroporation. Mice vaccinated with the DNA vaccine developed robust VEEV-neutralizing antibody responses that were comparable to those observed after administration of the live-attenuated VEEV vaccine TC-83 and were completely protected from a lethal aerosol VEEV challenge. The DNA vaccine also elicited strong neutralizing antibody responses in rabbits that persisted at high levels for at least 6 months and could be boosted by a single additional electroporation administration of the DNA performed approximately 6 months after the initial vaccinations. Cynomolgus macaques that received the vaccine by intramuscular electroporation developed substantial neutralizing antibody responses and after an aerosol challenge had no detectable serum viremia and had reduced febrile reactions, lymphopenia, and clinical signs of disease compared to those of negative-control macaques. Taken together, our results demonstrate that this DNA vaccine provides a potent means of protecting against VEEV infections and represents an attractive candidate for further development.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is an important, naturally emerging zoonotic virus. VEEV was a significant human and equine pathogen for much of the past century, and recent outbreaks in Venezuela and Colombia (1995), with about 100,000 human cases, indicate that this virus still poses a serious public health threat. The live attenuated TC-83 vaccine strain of VEEV was developed in the 1960s using a traditional approach of serial passaging in tissue culture of the virulent Trinidad donkey (TrD) strain. This vaccine presents several problems, including adverse, sometimes severe reactions in many human vaccinees. The TC-83 strain also retains residual murine virulence and is lethal for suckling mice after intracerebral (i.c.) or subcutaneous (s.c.) inoculation. To overcome these negative effects, we developed a recombinant, chimeric Sindbis/VEE virus (SIN-83) that is more highly attenuated. The genome of this virus encoded the replicative enzymes and the cis-acting RNA elements derived from Sindbis virus (SINV), one of the least human-pathogenic alphaviruses. The structural proteins were derived from VEEV TC-83. The SIN-83 virus, which contained an additional adaptive mutation in the nsP2 gene, replicated efficiently in common cell lines and did not cause detectable disease in adult or suckling mice after either i.c. or s.c. inoculation. However, SIN-83-vaccinated mice were efficiently protected against challenge with pathogenic strains of VEEV. Our findings suggest that the use of the SINV genome as a vector for expression of structural proteins derived from more pathogenic, encephalitic alphaviruses is a promising strategy for alphavirus vaccine development.
We recently described a Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV)-specific human monoclonal antibody (MAb), F5 nIgG, that recognizes a new neutralization epitope on the VEEV E2 envelope glycoprotein. In this study, we investigated the ability of F5 nIgG given prophylactically or therapeutically to protect mice from subcutaneous or aerosolized VEEV infection. F5 nIgG had potent ability to protect mice from infection by either route when administered 24 h before exposure; however, mice treated 24 h after aerosol exposure developed central nervous system infections but exhibited no clinical signs of disease. Infectious virus, viral antigen and RNA were detected in brains of both treated and untreated mice 2–6 days after aerosol exposure but were cleared from the brains of treated animals by 14–28 days after infection. This fully human MAb could be useful for prophylaxis or immediate therapy for individuals exposed to VEEV accidentally in the laboratory or during a deliberate release.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus; Alphavirus; human monoclonal antibody; envelope glycoprotein; antibody prophylaxis; antibody therapy
During the last decade, alphaviruses became widely used for expression of heterologous genetic information and development of recombinant vaccines against a variety of human and animal pathogens. In this study, we compared a number of vectors based on the genome of Sindbis (SINV) and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEEV) viruses for their ability to express the Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) envelope glycoprotein Gn and induce a protective immune response against RVFV infection. Our results suggest that i) application of VEEV-based expression systems appears to be advantageous, when compared to similar systems designed on the basis of the SINV genome. ii) Alphavirus-specific E3 and E2 proteins and furin-specific cleavage sites can be used for engineering secreted forms of the proteins. iii) Alphaviruses can be modified for expression of the large fragments of heterologous proteins on the surface of chimeric, infectious viral particles. Thus, alphavirus-based expression systems may have the potential for a broader application beyond their current use as replicons or double-subgenomic vectors.
alphaviruses; recombinant vaccines; chimeric viruses
There is currently a requirement for antiviral therapies capable of protecting against infection with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), as a licensed vaccine is not available for general human use. Monoclonal antibodies are increasingly being developed as therapeutics and are potential treatments for VEEV as they have been shown to be protective in the mouse model of disease. However, to be truly effective, the antibody should recognise multiple strains of VEEV and broadly reactive monoclonal antibodies are rarely and only coincidentally isolated using classical hybridoma technology.
In this work, methods were developed to reliably derive broadly reactive murine antibodies. A phage library was created that expressed single chain variable fragments (scFv) isolated from mice immunised with multiple strains of VEEV. A broadly reactive scFv was identified and incorporated into a murine IgG2a framework. This novel antibody retained the broad reactivity exhibited by the scFv but did not possess virus neutralising activity. However, the antibody was still able to protect mice against VEEV disease induced by strain TrD when administered 24 h prior to challenge.
A monoclonal antibody possessing reactivity to a wide range of VEEV strains may be of benefit as a generic antiviral therapy. However, humanisation of the murine antibody will be required before it can be tested in humans.
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Enzootic strains of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) have been isolated from febrile patients in the Peruvian Amazon Basin at low but consistent levels since the early 1990s. Through a clinic-based febrile surveillance program, we detected an outbreak of VEEV infections in Iquitos, Peru, in the first half of 2006. The majority of these patients resided within urban areas of Iquitos, with no report of recent travel outside the city. To characterize the risk factors for VEEV infection within the city, an antibody prevalence study was carried out in a geographically stratified sample of urban areas of Iquitos. Additionally, entomological surveys were conducted to determine if previously incriminated vectors of enzootic VEEV were present within the city. We found that greater than 23% of Iquitos residents carried neutralizing antibodies against VEEV, with significant associations between increased antibody prevalence and age, occupation, mosquito net use, and overnight travel. Furthermore, potential vector mosquitoes were widely distributed across the city. Our results suggest that while VEEV infection is more common in rural areas, transmission also occurs within urban areas of Iquitos, and that further studies are warranted to identify the precise vectors and reservoirs involved in urban VEEV transmission.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) is a mosquito-borne viral disease often causing grave illness and large outbreaks of disease in South America. In Iquitos, Peru, a city of 350,000 situated in the Amazon forest, we normally observe 10–14 VEE cases per year associated with people traveling to rural areas where strains VEE virus circulate among forest mosquitoes and rodents. In 2006 we detected a 5-fold increase in human VEE cases, and many of these patients had no travel history outside the city where they lived. In response to this outbreak, we decided to determine if potential carrier mosquitoes were present within the city and if city residents had been previously exposed to the virus. We found that mosquitoes previously shown to transmit the virus in other locations were present—in varying amounts based on location and time of year—throughout Iquitos. A large percentage of the human population (>23%) had antibodies indicating past exposure to the virus. Previous VEE infection was associated with age, occupation, mosquito exposure, and overnight travel. Our data represent evidence of transmission of a forest strain of VEE within a large urban area. Continued monitoring of this situation will shed light on mechanisms of virus emergence.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is an important, naturally emerging zoonotic pathogen. Recent outbreaks in Venezuela and Colombia in 1995, involving an estimated 100,000 human cases, indicate that VEEV still poses a serious public health threat. To develop a safe, efficient vaccine that protects against disease resulting from VEEV infection, we generated chimeric Sindbis (SIN) viruses expressing structural proteins of different strains of VEEV and analyzed their replication in vitro and in vivo, as well as the characteristics of the induced immune responses. None of the chimeric SIN/VEE viruses caused any detectable disease in adult mice after either intracerebral (i.c.) or subcutaneous (s.c.) inoculation, and all chimeras were more attenuated than the vaccine strain, VEEV TC83, in 6-day-old mice after i.c. infection. All vaccinated mice were protected against lethal encephalitis following i.c., s.c., or intranasal (i.n.) challenge with the virulent VEEV ZPC738 strain (ZPC738). In spite of the absence of clinical encephalitis in vaccinated mice challenged with ZPC738 via i.n. or i.c. route, we regularly detected high levels of infectious challenge virus in the central nervous system (CNS). However, infectious virus was undetectable in the brains of all immunized animals at 28 days after challenge. Hamsters vaccinated with chimeric SIN/VEE viruses were also protected against s.c. challenge with ZPC738. Taken together, our findings suggest that these chimeric SIN/VEE viruses are safe and efficacious in adult mice and hamsters and are potentially useful as VEEV vaccines. In addition, immunized animals provide a useful model for studying the mechanisms of the anti-VEEV neuroinflammatory response, leading to the reduction of viral titers in the CNS and survival of animals.
The genus Alphavirus contains members that threaten human health, both as natural pathogens and as potential biological weapons. Peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) enter cells readily and can inhibit viral replication through sequence-specific steric blockade of viral RNA. Sindbis virus (SINV) has low pathogenicity in humans and is regularly utilized as a model alphavirus. PPMO targeting the 5′-terminal and AUG translation start site-regions of the SINV genome blocked the production of infectious SINV in tissue culture. PPMO designed against corresponding regions in Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) were likewise found to be effective in vitro against several strains of VEEV. Mice treated with PPMO before and after VEEV infection were completely protected from lethal outcome while mice receiving only post-infection PPMO treatment were partially protected. Levels of virus in tissue samples correlated with animal survival. Uninfected mice suffered no apparent ill-effects from PPMO treatment. Thus, PPMO appear promising as candidates for therapeutic development against alphaviruses.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus; Sindbis virus; pathogenic alphaviruses; antiviral agents; antisense therapy; morpholino oligomers
Mice immunized with recombinant vaccinia virus (VACC) expressing Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus capsid protein and glycoproteins E1 and E2 or with attenuated VEE TC-83 virus vaccine developed VEE-specific neutralizing antibody and survived intraperitoneal challenge with virulent VEE virus strains including Trinidad donkey (subtype 1AB), P676 (subtype 1C), 3880 (subtype 1D), and Everglades (subtype 2). However, unlike immunization with TC-83 virus, immunization with the recombinant VACC/VEE virus did not protect mice from intranasal challenge with VEE Trinidad donkey virus. These results suggest that recombinant VACC/VEE virus is a vaccine candidate for equines and humans at risk of mosquito-transmitted VEE disease but not for laboratory workers at risk of accidental exposure to aerosol infection with VEE virus.
Multiple wild rodent species can serve as amplifying reservoir hosts for virus subtype IE.
In 1993, an outbreak of encephalitis among 125 affected equids in coastal Chiapas, Mexico, resulted in a 50% case-fatality rate. The outbreak was attributed to Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) subtype IE, not previously associated with equine disease and death. To better understand the ecology of this VEEV strain in Chiapas, we experimentally infected 5 species of wild rodents and evaluated their competence as reservoir and amplifying hosts. Rodents from 1 species (Baiomys musculus) showed signs of disease and died by day 8 postinoculation. Rodents from the 4 other species (Liomys salvini, Oligoryzomys fulvescens, Oryzomys couesi, and Sigmodon hispidus) became viremic but survived and developed neutralizing antibodies, indicating that multiple species may contribute to VEEV maintenance. By infecting numerous rodent species and producing adequate viremia, VEEV may increase its chances of long-term persistence in nature and could increase risk for establishment in disease-endemic areas and amplification outside the disease-endemic range.
Zoonoses; vector-borne infections; bioterrorism agents and preparedness; encephalomyelitis virus; alphaviruses; transmission; Mexico; strains; wild rodents; research
The mosquito Culex (Melanoconion) taeniopus is a proven vector of enzootic Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) subtype IE in Central America. It has been shown to be highly susceptible to infection by this subtype, and conversely to be highly refractory to infection by other VEEV subtypes. During the 1990s in southern coastal Mexico, two VEE epizootics in horses were attributed to subtype IE VEEV. These outbreaks were associated with VEEV strains with an altered infection phenotype for the epizootic mosquito vector, Aedes (Ochlerotatus) taeniorhynchus. To determine the infectivity for the enzootic vector, Culex taeniopus, mosquitoes from a recently established colony were orally exposed to VEEV strains from the outbreak. The equine-virulent strains exhibited high infectivity and transmission potential comparable to a traditional enzootic subtype IE VEEV strain. Thus, subtype IE VEEV strains in Chiapas are able to efficiently infect enzootic and epizootic vectors and cause morbidity and mortality in horses.
Enzootic Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) has been known to occur in Mexico since the 1960s. The first natural equine epizootic was recognized in Chiapas in 1993 and since then, numerous studies have characterized the etiologic strains, including reverse genetic studies that incriminated a specific mutation that enhanced infection of epizootic mosquito vectors. The aim of this study was to determine the mosquito and rodent species involved in enzootic maintenance of subtype IE VEEV in coastal Chiapas. A longitudinal study was conducted over a year to discern which species and habitats could be associated with VEEV circulation. Antibody was rarely detected in mammals and virus was not isolated from mosquitoes. Additionally, Culex (Melanoconion) taeniopus populations were found to be spatially related to high levels of human and bovine seroprevalence. These mosquito populations were concentrated in areas that appear to represent foci of stable, enzootic VEEV circulation.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is an important human and veterinary pathogen causing sporadic epizootic outbreaks of potentially fatal encephalitis. The type I interferon (IFN) system plays a central role in controlling VEEV and other alphavirus infections, and IFN evasion is likely an important determinant of whether these viruses disseminate and cause disease within their hosts. Alphaviruses are thought to limit the induction of type I IFNs and IFN-stimulated genes by shutting off host cell macromolecular synthesis, which in the case of VEEV is partially mediated by the viral capsid protein. However, more specific strategies by which alphaviruses inhibit type I IFN signaling have not been characterized. Analyses of cells infected with VEEV and VEEV replicon particles (VRP) demonstrate that viral infection rapidly disrupts tyrosine phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of the transcription factor STAT1 in response to both IFN-β and IFN-γ. This effect was independent of host shutoff and expression of viral capsid, suggesting that VEEV uses novel mechanisms to interfere with type I and type II IFN signaling. Furthermore, at times when STAT1 activation was efficiently inhibited, VRP infection did not limit tyrosine phosphorylation of Jak1, Tyk2, or STAT2 after IFN-β treatment but did inhibit Jak1 and Jak2 activation in response to IFN-γ, suggesting that VEEV interferes with STAT1 activation by the type I and II receptor complexes through distinct mechanisms. Identification of the viral requirements for this novel STAT1 inhibition will further our understanding of alphavirus molecular pathogenesis and may provide insights into effective alphavirus-based vaccine design.
Neuroinvasion of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and subsequent initiation of inflammation in the brain plays a crucial role in the outcome of VEEV infection in mice. Adhesion molecules expressed on microvascular endothelial cells in the brain have been implicated in the modulation of the blood brain barrier (BBB) and inflammation in brain but their role in VEEV pathogenesis is not very well understood. In this study, we evaluated the expression of extracellular matrix and adhesion molecules genes in the brain of VEEV infected mice.
Several cell to cell adhesion molecules and extracellular matrix protein genes such as ICAM-1, VCAM-1, CD44, Cadherins, integrins, MMPs and Timp1 were differentially regulated post-VEEV infection. ICAM-1 knock-out (IKO) mice infected with VEEV had markedly reduced inflammation in the brain and demonstrated a delay in the onset of clinical symptoms of disease. A differential regulation of inflammatory genes was observed in the IKO mice brain compared to their WT counterparts.
These results improve our present understanding of VEEV induced inflammation in mouse brain.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a positive-strand RNA Alphavirus endemic in Central and South America, and the causative agent of fatal encephalitis in humans. In an effort to better understand the mechanisms of infection, including differences between people who produce a neutralizing antibody response to the vaccine and those who do not, we performed whole genome transcriptional analysis in human PBMCs exposed in vitro to the live-attenuated vaccine strain of VEEV, TC-83. We compared the molecular responses in cells from three groups of individuals: naïve; previously vaccinated individuals who developed a neutralizing antibody response to the vaccine (responders); and those who did not develop a neutralizing antibody response to the vaccine (nonresponders). Overall, the changes in gene expression were more intense for the naïve group after TC-83 challenge and least potent in the nonresponder group. The main canonical pathways revealed the involvement of interferon and interferon-induced pathways, as well as toll-like receptors TLR- and interleukin (IL)-12-related pathways. HLA class II genotype and suppression of transcript expression for TLR2, TLR4 and TLR8 in the nonresponder group may help explain the lack of vaccine response in this study group. Because TL3 and TLR7 transcripts were elevated in all study groups, these factors may be indicators of the infection and not the immunological state of the individuals. Biomarkers were identified that differentiate between the vaccine responder and the vaccine nonresponder groups. The identified biomarkers were contrasted against transcripts that were unique to the naïve population alone upon induction with TC-83. Biomarker analysis allowed for the discernment between the naïve (innate) responses; the responder (recall) responses; and the nonresponder (alternative) changes to gene transcription that were caused by infection with TC-83. The study also points to the existence of HLA haplotypes that may discriminate between vaccine low- and high-responder phenotypes.
biomarkers; gene expression; microarray; neutralizing antibody; vaccination; vaccine responder; Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) has been the causative agent for sporadic epidemics and equine epizootics throughout the Americas since the 1930s. In 1969, an outbreak of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) spread rapidly from Guatemala and through the Gulf Coast region of Mexico, reaching Texas in 1971. Since this outbreak, there have been very few studies to determine the northward extent of endemic VEEV in this region. This study reports the findings of serologic surveillance in the Gulf Coast region of Mexico from 2003–2010. Phylogenetic analysis was also performed on viral isolates from this region to determine whether there have been substantial genetic changes in VEEV since the 1960s. Based on the findings of this study, the Gulf Coast lineage of subtype IE VEEV continues to actively circulate in this region of Mexico and appears to be responsible for infection of humans and animals throughout this region, including the northern State of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of human and equine cases of severe disease in the Americas. In 1969, an outbreak of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) spread rapidly from Guatemala and through the Gulf Coast region of Mexico, reaching Texas in 1971. Since this outbreak, there has been very little done to understand the ecology of VEEV in this region. Here, we present that the results of recent field studies that focus on confirming the continued existence of enzootic VEEV in the Gulf Coast region of Mexico. We performed serological analyses of sera collected between 2003 and 2010 from humans, cattle, horses, and dogs in various regions along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, and these data were complemented by wildcaught rodent serosurveys. Additionally, phylogenetic analyses were performed on VEEV isolates from this region to determine whether there have been substantial genetic changes in these viruses since the 1960s.
Ebola virus (EBOV) causes acute hemorrhagic fever that is fatal in up to 90% of cases in both humans and nonhuman primates. No vaccines or treatments are available for human use. We evaluated the effects in nonhuman primates of vaccine strategies that had protected mice or guinea pigs from lethal EBOV infection. The following immunogens were used: RNA replicon particles derived from an attenuated strain of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) expressing EBOV glycoprotein and nucleoprotein; recombinant Vaccinia virus expressing EBOV glycoprotein; liposomes containing lipid A and inactivated EBOV; and a concentrated, inactivated whole-virion preparation. None of these strategies successfully protected nonhuman primates from robust challenge with EBOV. The disease observed in primates differed from that in rodents, suggesting that rodent models of EBOV may not predict the efficacy of candidate vaccines in primates and that protection of primates may require different mechanisms.
Keywords: Ebola; macaque; vaccine; Vaccinia virus; replicon
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a highly infectious alphavirus endemic in parts of Central and South America. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, and the natural reservoir is the small rodent population, with epidemics occurring in horses and occasionally humans. Following infection, VEEV replicates in lymphoid tissues prior to invasion of the central nervous system. Treatment of VEEV-infected BALB/c mice with polyethylene glycol-conjugated alpha interferon (PEG IFN-α) results in a greatly enhanced survival from either a subcutaneous or an aerosol infection. Virus is undetectable within PEG IFN-α-treated individuals by day 30 postinfection (p.i.). Treatment results in a number of changes to the immune response characteristics normally associated with VEEV infection. Increased macrophage activation occurs in PEG IFN-α-treated BALB/c mice infected with VEEV. The rapid activation of splenic CD4, CD8, and B cells by day 2 p.i. normally associated with VEEV infection is absent in PEG IFN-α-treated mice. The high tumor necrosis factor alpha production by macrophages from untreated mice is greatly diminished in PEG IFN-α-treated mice. These results suggest key immunological mechanisms targeted by this lethal alphavirus that can be modulated by prolonged exposure to IFN-α.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) represents a continuous public health threat in the United States. It has the ability to cause fatal disease in humans and in horses and other domestic animals. We recently demonstrated that replicating VEEV interferes with cellular transcription and uses this phenomenon as a means of downregulating a cellular antiviral response. VEEV capsid protein was found to play a critical role in this process, and its ∼35-amino-acid-long peptide, fused with green fluorescent protein, functioned as efficiently as did the entire capsid. We detected a significant fraction of VEEV capsid associated with nuclear envelope, which suggested that this protein might regulate nucleocytoplasmic trafficking. In this study, we demonstrate that VEEV capsid and its N-terminal sequence efficiently inhibit multiple receptor-mediated nuclear import pathways but have no effect on the passive diffusion of small proteins. The capsid protein of the Old World alphavirus Sindbis virus and the VEEV capsid, with a previously defined frameshift mutation, were found to have no detectable effect on nuclear import. Importantly, the VEEV capsid did not noticeably interfere with nuclear import in mosquito cells, and this might play a critical role in the ability of the virus to develop a persistent, life-long infection in mosquito vectors. These findings demonstrate a new aspect of VEEV-host cell interactions, and the results of this study are likely applicable to other New World alphaviruses, such as eastern and western equine encephalitis viruses.
We compared the alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) sensitivities of the TC-83 vaccine strain and 24 enzootic and epizootic Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) isolates. The IFN-resistant or -sensitive phenotype correlated well with epizootic or enzootic potential. IFN-α/β resistance of Trinidad donkey (TRD) virus correlated with virulence determinants in the 5′ noncoding region and glycoproteins. Infection of mice lacking a functional IFN system with the IFN-sensitive TC-83 virus resulted in disease equivalent to that produced by the virulent, IFN-resistant TRD virus, further demonstrating that IFN resistance contributes to VEE virus virulence and is a biological marker of epizootic potential.
Optimisation of genes has been shown to be beneficial for expression of proteins in a range of applications. Optimisation has increased protein expression levels through improved codon usage of the genes and an increase in levels of messenger RNA. We have applied this to an adenovirus (ad)-based vaccine encoding structural proteins (E3-E2-6K) of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV).
Following administration of this vaccine to Balb/c mice, an approximately ten-fold increase in antibody response was elicited and increased protective efficacy compared to an ad-based vaccine containing non-optimised genes was observed after challenge.
This study, in which the utility of optimising genes encoding the structural proteins of VEEV is demonstrated for the first time, informs us that including optimised genes in gene-based vaccines for VEEV is essential to obtain maximum immunogenicity and protective efficacy.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of human and equine cases of severe disease in the Americas. A passive surveillance study was conducted in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador to determine the arboviral etiology of febrile illness. Patients with suspected viral-associated, acute, undifferentiated febrile illness of <7 days duration were enrolled in the study and blood samples were obtained from each patient and assayed by virus isolation. Demographic and clinical information from each patient was also obtained at the time of voluntary enrollment. In 2005–2007, cases of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) were diagnosed for the first time in residents of Bolivia; the patients did not report traveling, suggesting endemic circulation of VEEV in Bolivia. In 2001 and 2003, VEE cases were also identified in Ecuador. Since 1993, VEEV has been continuously isolated from patients in Loreto, Peru, and more recently (2005), in Madre de Dios, Peru. We performed phylogenetic analyses with VEEV from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru and compared their relationships to strains from other parts of South America. We found that VEEV subtype ID Panama/Peru genotype is the predominant one circulating in Peru. We also demonstrated that VEEV subtype ID strains circulating in Ecuador belong to the Colombia/Venezuela genotype and VEEV from Madre de Dios, Peru and Cochabamba, Bolivia belong to a new ID genotype. In summary, we identified a new major lineage of enzootic VEEV subtype ID, information that could aid in the understanding of the emergence and evolution of VEEV in South America.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of human and equine cases of severe disease in the Americas. In 2005–2007, cases of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) were diagnosed for the first time in residents of Bolivia; the patients did not report traveling, suggesting endemic circulation of VEEV in Bolivia. In 2001 and 2003, VEE cases were also identified in Ecuador. We characterize recent VEEV from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru and compared their relationships to strains from other parts of South America. We found that most VEEV from Peru grouped within a particular genetic lineage known to circulate in Panama and Peru whereas the VEEV circulating in Ecuador belong to a genetic lineage that circulates in Colombia and Venezuela. Importantly, the VEEV from Madre de Dios, Peru and Cochabamba, Bolivia belong to a new genetic lineage. This finding could aid in the understanding of the emergence and evolution of VEEV in South America and underscores the need for continuous monitoring for VEEV activity.
The live-attenuated TC-83 strain is the only licensed veterinary vaccine available to protect equids against Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and to protect humans indirectly by preventing equine amplification. However, TC-83 is reactogenic due to its reliance on only two attenuating point mutations and has infected mosquitoes following equine vaccination. To increase its stability and safety, a recombinant TC-83 was previously engineered by placing the expression of the viral structural proteins under the control of the Internal Ribosome Entry Site (IRES) of encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV), which drives translation inefficiently in insect cells. However, this vaccine candidate was poorly immunogenic. Here we describe a second generation of the recombinant TC-83 in which the subgenomic promoter is maintained and only the capsid protein gene is translated from the IRES. This VEEV/IRES/C vaccine candidate did not infect mosquitoes, was stable in its attenuation phenotype after serial murine passages, and was more attenuated in newborn mice but still as protective as TC-83 against VEEV challenge. Thus, by using the IRES to modulate TC-83 capsid protein expression, we generated a vaccine candidate that combines efficient immunogenicity and efficacy with lower virulence and a reduced potential for spread in nature.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is transmitted by mosquitoes and widely distributed in Central and South America, causing regular outbreaks in horses and humans. Often misdiagnosed as dengue, VEEV infection in humans can lead to lifelong neurological sequelae and is fatal in up to >80% of equine cases, representing a significant socio-economic burden and constant public health threats for developing countries of Latin America. The only available vaccine, the live-attenuated TC-83 strain, is restricted to veterinary use due to its high reactogenicity in humans and risk for reversion to virulence, which could initiate an epidemic. By using an attenuation approach that allows the modulation of the virus capsid protein expression, we generated a new version of TC-83 that is more attenuated but still induces a protective immune response in mice. Additionally, this new vaccine cannot infect mosquitoes, which prevents the risk of spreading in nature. The attenuation approach we describe can be applied to a lot of other alphaviruses to develop vaccines against diseases regularly emerging and threatening developing countries.