Reverse genetics based H5N2 vaccine provides clinical protection against H5N1, H5N8 and H9N2 avian influenza infection in chickens

The current study aimed to develop broadly protective vaccines for avian influenza. In an earlier study, HA stalk (universal flu vaccine) was found to be broadly protective against different subtypes of influenza virus in mice. Hence, we were interested to know its breadth of protective efficacy either alone or combined with inactivated rgH5N2 (clade 2.3.2.1a) vaccine against challenge viruses of homologous H5N1, heterologous H5N8 (clade 2.3.4.4) and heterosubtypic H9N2 virus in specific pathogen-free chickens. The rgH5N2 vaccine alone or in combination with HA stalk elicited sufficient pre-challenge immunity in the form of haemagglutination inhibiting (HI) antibodies and neutralizing antibodies (MNT) against H5N1, H5N8, and H9N2 in chickens. The rgH5N2 vaccine alone or in combination with HA stalk also attenuated the shedding of H5N1, H5N8 and H9N2 in chickens and protected against the lethal challenge of H5N1 or H5N8. In contrast, all HA stalk immunised chickens died upon H5N1 or H5N8 challenge and H9N2 challenged chickens survived. Our study suggests that the rgH5N2 vaccine can provide clinical protection against H5N1, H5N8 and can attenuate the viral shedding of H9N2 in chickens.

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