Journal of virology 2016 07 2790(16) 7508-18 doi 10.1128/JVI.00012-16
Although respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants, a safe and effective vaccine is not yet available. Live-attenuated vaccines (LAVs) are the most advanced vaccine candidates in RSV-naive infants. However, designing an LAV with appropriate attenuation yet sufficient immunogenicity has proven challenging. In this study, we implemented reverse genetics to address these obstacles with a multifaceted LAV design that combined the codon deoptimization of genes for nonstructural proteins NS1 and NS2 (dNS), deletion of the small hydrophobic protein (ΔSH) gene, and replacement of the wild-type fusion (F) protein gene with a low-fusion RSV subgroup B F consensus sequence of the Buenos Aires clade (BAF). This vaccine candidate, RSV-A2-dNS-ΔSH-BAF (DB1), was attenuated in two models of primary human airway epithelial cells and in the upper and lower airways of cotton rats. DB1 was also highly immunogenic in cotton rats and elicited broadly neutralizing antibodies against a diverse panel of recombinant RSV strains. When vaccinated cotton rats were challenged with wild-type RSV A, DB1 reduced viral titers in the upper and lower airways by 3.8 log10 total PFU and 2.7 log10 PFU/g of tissue, respectively, compared to those in unvaccinated animals (P < 0.0001). DB1 was thus attenuated, highly immunogenic, and protective against RSV challenge in cotton rats. DB1 is the first RSV LAV to incorporate a low-fusion F protein as a strategy to attenuate viral replication and preserve immunogenicity. IMPORTANCE
RSV is a leading cause of infant hospitalizations and deaths. The development of an effective vaccine for this high-risk population is therefore a public health priority. Although live-attenuated vaccines have been safely administered to RSV-naive infants, strategies to balance vaccine attenuation with immunogenicity have been elusive. In this study, we introduced a novel strategy to attenuate a recombinant RSV vaccine by incorporating a low-fusion, subgroup B F protein in the genetic background of codon-deoptimized nonstructural protein genes and a deleted small hydrophobic protein gene. The resultant vaccine candidate, DB1, was attenuated, highly immunogenic, and protective against RSV challenge in cotton rats.