Vaccination with a Recombinant H7 Hemagglutinin-Based Influenza Virus Vaccine Induces Broadly Reactive Antibodies in Humans
Daniel Stadlbauer, Arvind Rajabhathor, Fatima Amanat, Daniel Kaplan, Abusaleh Masud, John J. Treanor, Ruvim Izikson, Manon M. Cox, Raffael Nachbagauer, Florian Krammer
Human influenza virus infections with avian subtype H7N9 viruses are a major public health concern and have encouraged the development of effective H7 prepandemic vaccines. In this study, baseline and postvaccination serum samples of individuals aged 18 years and older who received a recombinant H7 hemagglutinin vaccine with and without an oil-in-water emulsion (SE) adjuvant were analyzed using a panel of serological assays. While only a small proportion of individuals seroconverted to H7N9 as measured by the conventional hemagglutination inhibition assay, our data show strong induction of anti-H7 hemagglutinin antibodies as measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In addition, cross-reactive antibodies against phylogenetically distant group 2 hemagglutinins were induced, presumably targeting the conserved stalk domain of the hemagglutinin. Further analysis confirmed an induction of stalk-specific antibodies, suggesting that epitopes outside the classical antigenic sites are targeted by this vaccine in the context of preexisting immunity to related H3 hemagglutinin. Antibodies induced by H7 vaccination also showed functional activity in antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity reporter assays and microneutralization assays. Additionally, our data show that sera from hemagglutination inhibition seroconverters conferred protection in a passive serum transfer experiment against lethal H7N9 virus challenge in mice. Interestingly, sera from hemagglutination inhibition nonseroconverters also conferred partial protection in the lethal animal challenge model. In conclusion, while recombinant H7 vaccination fails to induce measurable levels of hemagglutination-inhibiting antibodies in most subjects, this vaccination regime induces homosubtypic and heterosubtypic cross-reactive binding antibodies that are functional and partly protective in a murine passive transfer challenge model.
mSphere 2:e00502-17. https://doi.org/10.1128/ mSphere.00502-17.