Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 29593043
J. Virol. 2018 06;92(12)
Several Old World and New World arenaviruses are responsible for severe endemic and epidemic hemorrhagic fevers, whereas other members of the family are nonpathogenic. To date, no approved vaccines, antivirals, or specific treatments are available, except for Junín virus. However, protection of nonhuman primates against Lassa fever virus (LASV) is possible through the inoculation of the closely related but nonpathogenic Mopeia virus (MOPV) before challenge with LASV. We reasoned that this virus, modified by using reverse genetics, would represent the basis for the generation of a vaccine platform against LASV and other pathogenic arenaviruses. After showing evidence of exoribonuclease (ExoN) activity in NP of MOPV, we found that this activity was essential for multiplication in antigen-presenting cells. The introduction of multiple mutations in the ExoN site of MOPV NP generated a hyperattenuated strain (MOPV) that is (i) genetically stable over passages, (ii) has increased immunogenic properties compared to those of MOPV, and (iii) still promotes a strong type I interferon (IFN) response. MOPV was further modified to harbor the envelope glycoproteins of heterologous pathogenic arenaviruses, such as LASV or Lujo, Machupo, Guanarito, Chapare, or Sabia virus in order to broaden specific antigenicity while preserving the hyperattenuated characteristics of the parental strain. Our MOPV-based vaccine candidate for LASV, MOPEVAC, was used in a one-shot immunization assay in nonhuman primates and fully protected them from a lethal challenge with LASV. Thus, our hyperattenuated strain of MOPV constitutes a promising new live-attenuated vaccine platform to immunize against several, if not all, pathogenic arenaviruses. Arenaviruses are emerging pathogens transmitted to humans by rodents and responsible for endemic and epidemic hemorrhagic fevers of global concern. Nonspecific symptoms associated with the onset of infection make these viruses difficult to distinguish from other endemic pathogens. Moreover, the unavailability of rapid diagnosis in the field delays the identification of the virus and early care for treatment and favors spreading. The vaccination of exposed populations would be of great help to decrease morbidity and human-to-human transmission. Using reverse genetics, we generated a vaccine platform for pathogenic arenaviruses based on a modified and hyperattenuated strain of the nonpathogenic Mopeia virus and showed that the Lassa virus candidate fully protected nonhuman primates from a lethal challenge. These results showed that a rationally designed recombinant MOPV-based vaccine is safe, immunogenic, and efficacious in nonhuman primates.