RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Abortive intrabronchial infection of rhesus macaques with varicella-zoster virus provides partial protection against simian varicella virus challenge.

Journal of Virology 2015 Februrary
UNLABELLED: Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a human neurotropic alphaherpesvirus and the etiological agent of varicella (chickenpox) and herpes zoster (HZ, shingles). Previously, inoculation of monkeys via the subcutaneous, intratracheal, intravenous, or oral-nasal-conjunctival routes did not recapitulate all the hallmarks of VZV infection, including varicella, immunity, latency, and reactivation. Intrabronchial inoculation of rhesus macaques (RMs) with simian varicella virus (SVV), a homolog of VZV, recapitulates virologic and immunologic hallmarks of VZV infection in humans. Given that VZV is acquired primarily via the respiratory route, we investigated whether intrabronchial inoculation of RMs with VZV would result in a robust model. Despite the lack of varicella and viral replication in either the lungs or whole blood, all four RMs generated an immune response characterized by the generation of VZV-specific antibodies and T cells. Two of 4 VZV-inoculated RMs were challenged with SVV to determine cross-protection. VZV-immune RMs displayed no varicella rash and had lower SVV viral loads and earlier and stronger humoral and cellular immune responses than controls. In contrast to the results for SVV DNA, no VZV DNA was detected in sensory ganglia at necropsy. In summary, following an abortive VZV infection, RMs developed an adaptive immune response that conferred partial protection against SVV challenge. These data suggest that a replication-incompetent VZV vaccine that does not establish latency may provide sufficient protection against VZV disease and that VZV vaccination of RMs followed by SVV challenge provides a model to evaluate new vaccines and therapeutics against VZV.

IMPORTANCE: Although VZV vaccine strain Oka is attenuated, it can cause mild varicella, establish latency, and in rare cases, reactivate to cause herpes zoster (HZ). Moreover, studies suggest that the HZ vaccine (Zostavax) only confers short-lived immunity. The development of more efficacious vaccines would be facilitated by a robust animal model of VZV infection. The data presented in this report show that intrabronchial inoculation of rhesus macaques (RMs) with VZV resulted in an abortive VZV infection. Nevertheless, all animals generated a humoral and cellular immune response that conferred partial cross-protection against simian varicella virus (SVV) challenge. Additionally, VZV DNA was not detected in the sensory ganglia, suggesting that viremia might be required for the establishment of latency. Therefore, VZV vaccination of RMs followed by SVV challenge is a model that will support the development of vaccines that boost protective T cell responses against VZV.

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