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1.  Eastern equine encephalitis virus in mice II: pathogenesis is dependent on route of exposure 
Virology Journal  2015;12:154.
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) is an alphavirus with a case fatality rate estimated to be as high as 75 % in humans and 90 % in horses. Surviving patients often have long-lasting and severe neurological sequelae. At present, there is no licensed vaccine or therapeutic for EEEV infection. This study completes the clinical and pathological analysis of mice infected with a North American strain of EEEV by three different routes: aerosol, intranasal, and subcutaneous. Such an understanding is imperative for use of the mouse model in vaccine and antiviral drug development.
Twelve-week-old female BALB/c mice were infected with EEEV strain FL93-939 by the intranasal, aerosol, or subcutaneous route. Mice were euthanized 6 hpi through 8 dpi and tissues were harvested for histopathological and immunohistochemical analysis.
Viral antigen was detected in the olfactory bulb as early as 1–2 dpi in aerosol and intranasal infected mice. However, histologic lesions in the brain were evident about 24 hours earlier (3 dpi vs 4 dpi), and were more pronounced following aerosol infection relative to intranasal infection. Following subcutaneous infection, viral antigen was also detected in the olfactory bulb, though not as routinely or as early. Significant histologic lesions were not observed until 6 dpi.
These pathologic studies suggest EEEV enters the brain through the olfactory system when mice are exposed via the intranasal and aerosol routes. In contrast, the histopathologic lesions were delayed in the subcutaneous group and it appears the virus may utilize both the vascular and olfactory routes to enter the brain when mice are exposed to EEEV subcutaneously.
PMCID: PMC4589026  PMID: 26423229
Alphavirus; Eastern equine encephalitis virus; Neuroinvasion; Mice
2.  Eastern equine encephalitis virus in mice I: clinical course and outcome are dependent on route of exposure 
Virology Journal  2015;12:152.
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), an arbovirus, is an important human and veterinary pathogen belonging to one of seven antigenic complexes in the genus Alphavirus, family Togaviridae. EEEV is considered the most deadly of the mosquito-borne alphaviruses due to the high case fatality rate associated with clinical infections, reaching up to 75 % in humans and 90 % in horses. In patients that survive acute infection, neurologic sequelae are often devastating. Although natural infections are acquired by mosquito bite, EEEV is also highly infectious by aerosol. This fact, along with the relative ease of production and stability of this virus, has led it to being identified as a potential agent of bioterrorism.
To characterize the clinical course and outcome of EEEV strain FL93-939 infection, we compared clinical parameters, cytokine expression, viremia, and viral titers in numerous tissues of mice exposed by various routes. Twelve-week-old female BALB/c mice were infected by the intranasal, aerosol, or subcutaneous route. Mice were monitored for clinical signs of disease and euthanized at specified time points (6 hpi through 8 dpi). Blood and tissues were harvested for cytokine analysis and/or viral titer determination.
Although all groups of animals exhibited similar clinical signs after inoculation, the onset and severity differed. The majority of those animals exposed by the aerosol route developed severe clinical signs by 4 dpi. Significant differences were also observed in the viral titers of target tissues, with virus being detected in the brain at 6 hpi in the aerosol study.
The clinical course and outcome of EEEV infection in mice is dependent on route of exposure. Aerosol exposure to EEEV results in acute onset of clinical signs, rapid neuroinvasion, and 100 % mortality.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12985-015-0386-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4588493  PMID: 26420265
Alphavirus; Eastern equine encephalitis virus; Neuroinvasion; Mice
3.  Bispecific Antibody Affords Complete Post-Exposure Protection of Mice from Both Ebola (Zaire) and Sudan Viruses 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:19193.
Filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg) cause severe hemorrhagic fever. There are five species of ebolavirus; among these, the Ebola (Zaire) and Sudan viruses (EBOV and SUDV, respectively) are highly pathogenic and have both caused recurring, large outbreaks. However, the EBOV and SUDV glycoprotein (GP) sequences are 45% divergent and thus antigenically distinct. Few antibodies with cross-neutralizing properties have been described to date. We used antibody engineering to develop novel bispecific antibodies (Bis-mAbs) that are cross-reactive toward base epitopes on GP from EBOV and SUDV. These Bis-mAbs exhibit potent neutralization against EBOV and SUDV GP pseudotyped viruses as well as authentic pathogens, and confer a high degree (in one case 100%) post-exposure protection of mice from both viruses. Our studies show that a single agent that targets the GP base epitopes is sufficient for protection in mice; such agents could be included in panfilovirus therapeutic antibody cocktails.
PMCID: PMC4725817  PMID: 26758505
4.  Human Polyclonal Antibodies Produced through DNA Vaccination of Transchromosomal Cattle Provide Mice with Post-Exposure Protection against Lethal Zaire and Sudan Ebolaviruses 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0137786.
DNA vaccination of transchromosomal bovines (TcBs) with DNA vaccines expressing the codon-optimized (co) glycoprotein (GP) genes of Ebola virus (EBOV) and Sudan virus (SUDV) produce fully human polyclonal antibodies (pAbs) that recognize both viruses and demonstrate robust neutralizing activity. Each TcB was vaccinated by intramuscular electroporation (IM-EP) a total of four times and at each administration received 10 mg of the EBOV-GPco DNA vaccine and 10 mg of the SUDV-GPco DNA vaccine at two sites on the left and right sides, respectively. After two vaccinations, robust antibody responses (titers > 1000) were detected by ELISA against whole irradiated EBOV or SUDV and recombinant EBOV-GP or SUDV-GP (rGP) antigens, with higher titers observed for the rGP antigens. Strong, virus neutralizing antibody responses (titers >1000) were detected after three vaccinations when measured by vesicular stomatitis virus-based pseudovirion neutralization assay (PsVNA). Maximal neutralizing antibody responses were identified by traditional plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNT) after four vaccinations. Neutralizing activity of human immunoglobulins (IgG) purified from TcB plasma collected after three vaccinations and injected intraperitoneally (IP) into mice at a 100 mg/kg dose was detected in the serum by PsVNA up to 14 days after administration. Passive transfer by IP injection of the purified IgG (100 mg/kg) to groups of BALB/c mice one day after IP challenge with mouse adapted (ma) EBOV resulted in 80% protection while all mice treated with non-specific pAbs succumbed. Similarly, interferon receptor 1 knockout (IFNAR -/-) mice receiving the purified IgG (100 mg/kg) by IP injection one day after IP challenge with wild type SUDV resulted in 89% survival. These results are the first to demonstrate that filovirus GP DNA vaccines administered to TcBs by IM-EP can elicit neutralizing antibodies that provide post-exposure protection. Additionally, these data describe production of fully human IgG in a large animal system, a system which is capable of producing large quantities of a clinical grade therapeutic product.
PMCID: PMC4589376  PMID: 26422247
5.  Combined Alphavirus Replicon Particle Vaccine Induces Durable and Cross-Protective Immune Responses against Equine Encephalitis Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(20):12077-12086.
Alphavirus replicons were evaluated as potential vaccine candidates for Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV), or eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) when given individually or in combination (V/W/E) to mice or cynomolgus macaques. Individual replicon vaccines or the combination V/W/E replicon vaccine elicited strong neutralizing antibodies in mice to their respective alphavirus. Protection from either subcutaneous or aerosol challenge with VEEV, WEEV, or EEEV was demonstrated out to 12 months after vaccination in mice. Individual replicon vaccines or the combination V/W/E replicon vaccine elicited strong neutralizing antibodies in macaques and demonstrated good protection against aerosol challenge with an epizootic VEEV-IAB virus, Trinidad donkey. Similarly, the EEEV replicon and V/W/E combination vaccine elicited neutralizing antibodies against EEEV and protected against aerosol exposure to a North American variety of EEEV. Both the WEEV replicon and combination V/W/E vaccination, however, elicited poor neutralizing antibodies to WEEV in macaques, and the protection conferred was not as strong. These results demonstrate that a combination V/W/E vaccine is possible for protection against aerosol challenge and that cross-interference between the vaccines is minimal.
IMPORTANCE Three related viruses belonging to the genus Alphavirus cause severe encephalitis in humans: Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV), and eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV). Normally transmitted by mosquitoes, these viruses can cause disease when inhaled, so there is concern that these viruses could be used as biological weapons. Prior reports have suggested that vaccines for these three viruses might interfere with one another. We have developed a combined vaccine for Venezuelan equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis, and eastern equine encephalitis expressing the surface proteins of all three viruses. In this report we demonstrate in both mice and macaques that this combined vaccine is safe, generates a strong immune response, and protects against aerosol challenge with the viruses that cause Venezuelan equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis, and eastern equine encephalitis.
PMCID: PMC4178741  PMID: 25122801
6.  Second Generation Inactivated Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus Vaccine Candidates Protect Mice against a Lethal Aerosol Challenge 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104708.
Currently, there are no FDA-licensed vaccines or therapeutics for eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) for human use. We recently developed several methods to inactivate CVEV1219, a chimeric live-attenuated eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV). Dosage and schedule studies were conducted to evaluate the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of three potential second-generation inactivated EEEV (iEEEV) vaccine candidates in mice: formalin-inactivated CVEV1219 (fCVEV1219), INA-inactivated CVEV1219 (iCVEV1219) and gamma-irradiated CVEV1219 (gCVEV1219). Both fCVEV1219 and gCVEV1219 provided partial to complete protection against an aerosol challenge when administered by different routes and schedules at various doses, while iCVEV1219 was unable to provide substantial protection against an aerosol challenge by any route, dose, or schedule tested. When evaluating antibody responses, neutralizing antibody, not virus specific IgG or IgA, was the best correlate of protection. The results of these studies suggest that both fCVEV1219 and gCVEV1219 should be evaluated further and considered for advancement as potential second-generation inactivated vaccine candidates for EEEV.
PMCID: PMC4130539  PMID: 25116127
7.  Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Replicon Particle Vaccine Protects Nonhuman Primates from Intramuscular and Aerosol Challenge with Ebolavirus 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(9):4952-4964.
There are no vaccines or therapeutics currently approved for the prevention or treatment of ebolavirus infection. Previously, a replicon vaccine based on Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) demonstrated protective efficacy against Marburg virus in nonhuman primates. Here, we report the protective efficacy of Sudan virus (SUDV)- and Ebola virus (EBOV)-specific VEEV replicon particle (VRP) vaccines in nonhuman primates. VRP vaccines were developed to express the glycoprotein (GP) of either SUDV or EBOV. A single intramuscular vaccination of cynomolgus macaques with VRP expressing SUDV GP provided complete protection against intramuscular challenge with SUDV. Vaccination against SUDV and subsequent survival of SUDV challenge did not fully protect cynomolgus macaques against intramuscular EBOV back-challenge. However, a single simultaneous intramuscular vaccination with VRP expressing SUDV GP combined with VRP expressing EBOV GP did provide complete protection against intramuscular challenge with either SUDV or EBOV in cynomolgus macaques. Finally, intramuscular vaccination with VRP expressing SUDV GP completely protected cynomolgus macaques when challenged with aerosolized SUDV, although complete protection against aerosol challenge required two vaccinations with this vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3624300  PMID: 23408633
8.  Designing and Testing Broadly-Protective Filoviral Vaccines Optimized for Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitope Coverage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e44769.
We report the rational design and in vivo testing of mosaic proteins for a polyvalent pan-filoviral vaccine using a computational strategy designed for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) but also appropriate for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and potentially other diverse viruses. Mosaics are sets of artificial recombinant proteins that are based on natural proteins. The recombinants are computationally selected using a genetic algorithm to optimize the coverage of potential cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. Because evolutionary history differs markedly between HIV-1 and filoviruses, we devised an adapted computational technique that is effective for sparsely sampled taxa; our first significant result is that the mosaic technique is effective in creating high-quality mosaic filovirus proteins. The resulting coverage of potential epitopes across filovirus species is superior to coverage by any natural variants, including current vaccine strains with demonstrated cross-reactivity. The mosaic cocktails are also robust: mosaics substantially outperformed natural strains when computationally tested against poorly sampled species and more variable genes. Furthermore, in a computational comparison of cross-reactive potential a design constructed prior to the Bundibugyo outbreak performed nearly as well against all species as an updated design that included Bundibugyo. These points suggest that the mosaic designs would be more resilient than natural-variant vaccines against future Ebola outbreaks dominated by novel viral variants. We demonstrate in vivo immunogenicity and protection against a heterologous challenge in a mouse model. This design work delineates the likely requirements and limitations on broadly-protective filoviral CTL vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3463593  PMID: 23056184
11.  Telemetric analysis to detect febrile responses in mice following vaccination with a live-attenuated virus vaccine 
Vaccine  2009;27(49):6814-6823.
Nonhuman primates (NHP) are considered to be the most appropriate model for predicting how humans will respond to many infectious diseases. Due to ethical and monetary concerns associated with the use of NHP, rodent models that are as predictive of responses likely to be seen in human vaccine recipients are warranted. Using implanted telemetry devices, body temperature and activity were monitored in inbred and outbred mouse strains following administration of the live-attenuated vaccine for Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), V3526. Following analysis of individual mouse data, only outbred mouse strains showed changes in diurnal temperature and activity profiles following vaccination. Similar changes were observed following VEEV challenge of vaccinated outbred mice. From these studies, we conclude, outbred mouse strains implanted with telemeters are a sensitive model for predicting responses in humans following vaccination.
PMCID: PMC2783281  PMID: 19761841
vaccine; mouse; telemetry
12.  High-Resolution Functional Mapping of the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Genome by Insertional Mutagenesis and Massively Parallel Sequencing 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(10):e1001146.
We have developed a high-resolution genomic mapping technique that combines transposon-mediated insertional mutagenesis with either capillary electrophoresis or massively parallel sequencing to identify functionally important regions of the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) genome. We initially used a capillary electrophoresis method to gain insight into the role of the VEEV nonstructural protein 3 (nsP3) in viral replication. We identified several regions in nsP3 that are intolerant to small (15 bp) insertions, and thus are presumably functionally important. We also identified nine separate regions in nsP3 that will tolerate small insertions at low temperatures (30°C), but not at higher temperatures (37°C, and 40°C). Because we found this method to be extremely effective at identifying temperature sensitive (ts) mutations, but limited by capillary electrophoresis capacity, we replaced the capillary electrophoresis with massively parallel sequencing and used the improved method to generate a functional map of the entire VEEV genome. We identified several hundred potential ts mutations throughout the genome and we validated several of the mutations in nsP2, nsP3, E3, E2, E1 and capsid using single-cycle growth curve experiments with virus generated through reverse genetics. We further demonstrated that two of the nsP3 ts mutants were attenuated for virulence in mice but could elicit protective immunity against challenge with wild-type VEEV. The recombinant ts mutants will be valuable tools for further studies of VEEV replication and virulence. Moreover, the method that we developed is applicable for generating such tools for any virus with a robust reverse genetics system.
Author Summary
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a New World Alphavirus that was first identified in Venezuela in 1938. VEEV normally circulates in rodent populations, but during outbreaks it can jump to horses and humans where it can cause debilitating and potentially fatal disease. There are currently no vaccines or antiviral agents against VEEV licensed for use in humans. In this study, we describe a technique that we have developed that allows for the rapid identification of viral mutants that can be useful for studying the basic biology of viral replication. These mutants can also be used to generate vaccines that protect against infection with wild-type virus. We demonstrate the utility of this technique by identifying over 200 mutations spread throughout VEEV genome that make the virus unable to replicate efficiently at higher temperatures (37°C or 40°C.) Furthermore, we show that two of the mutant viruses work as vaccines, and protect mice against lethal infection with VEEV. This technique can be applied to studying other viruses, and may allow for the rapid identification of numerous vaccine candidates.
PMCID: PMC2954836  PMID: 20976195

Results 1-12 (12)