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Norovirus candidate vaccine induces broad antibody responses in trial participants

PLOS

A multivalent candidate vaccine elicits broad antibody responses to a range of norovirus strains, including strains not included in the vaccine or previously encountered by participants, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine. The results of the study, led by Lisa Lindesmith and Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, indicate that a vaccine to norovirus may be available in the future.

Worldwide, noroviruses cause one in five cases of viral gastroenteritis. An estimated annual 300 million cases of norovirus infection contribute to roughly 260,000 deaths, mostly in low-income countries. Over time, noroviruses evade natural immunity by antigenic drift, which allows them to escape from antibodies produced in response to earlier infections.

Recent efforts to develop a norovirus vaccine have focused on virus-like particles (VLPs), which are constructed from molecules of the virus's capsid (outer shell). In a phase I clinical trial, one multivalent VLP vaccine elicited antibody generation, but did not confer immunity to the tested strain of virus. In the current study, Lindesmith and colleagues characterized serum specimens from ten multivalent VLP vaccine clinical trial participants for antibodies to vaccine VLPs and also to VLPs representing viruses that were not contained in the vaccine.

The researchers found that VLP vaccine can rapidly elicit antibody responses to a broad range of vaccine and non-vaccine VLPs, including to two VLPs representing human noroviruses that they could not have previously encountered. Overall, antibodies to norovirus strains to which participants had previously been exposed dominated the immune response.

These findings provide evidence that, if achieved, VLP-vaccine-induced norovirus immunity may overcome the ability of noroviruses to evade immunity by antigenic drift. These results must be interpreted cautiously. The study is small, and the assays used may not replicate how the immune system of a vaccine recipient will respond to true norovirus infection. Additionally, the study participants were all adults aged 18 to 49 years, while a vaccine is most needed for young children (who account for the majority of severe infections) and the elderly (who are most likely to die from infection). Next steps include further development of VLP-based vaccines and additional clinical trials. The authors state: "These data reveal new information about complex norovirus immune responses to both natural exposure and to vaccination, and support the potential feasibility of an efficacious multivalent norovirus VLP vaccine for future use in human populations."

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Research Article

Funding: This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Allergy and Infectious Diseases R01 AI056351, R56 A15-0756, and U19 AI109761 CETR. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: MTF, CWM, KD, and JS do not have any competing interests. LCL and RSB have received royalties from a licensing agreement with Ligocyte (now Takeda). FB is an employee of Takeda Pharmaceuticals International. CR, RRG, RFB, and PMM are employees of Takeda Vaccines. RRG has stock in Takeda Vaccines, Inc. CR holds stock or options in Takeda Pharmaceuticals. RFB holds patents on Takeda's norovirus vaccine drug substance, owns Takeda stock, is PI of a research contract from the Department of Defense for norovirus vaccine development, is a board member of the Montana BioScience Alliance, and is a registered lobbyist. JF is an employee of EMMES and is contracted through Takeda Vaccines.

Citation: Lindesmith LC, Ferris MT, Mullan CW, Ferreira J, Debbink K, Swanstrom J, et al. (2015) Broad Blockade Antibody Responses in Human Volunteers after Immunization with a Multivalent Norovirus VLP Candidate Vaccine: Immunological Analyses from a Phase I Clinical Trial. PLoS Med 12 (3): e1001807. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001807

Author Affiliations:

University of North Carolina, UNITED STATES

The EMMES Corporation, UNITED STATES

Takeda Vaccines, UNITED STATES

Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, SWITZERLAND

Contact:

Lisa Lindesmith and Ralph Baric
Gillings School of Global Public Health
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
+1 (919) 966 4689
lisal@unc.edu
rbaric@email.unc.edu

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