Immunization of Syrian golden hamsters with F subunit vaccine of human metapneumovirus induces protection against challenge with homologous or heterologous strains
Human metapneumovirus (hMPV), a newly discovered paramyxovirus, is associated with acute respiratory-tract illness, primarily in young children, individuals with underlying disease and the elderly. Two genetic lineages of hMPV circulate around the world, and viruses from these two lineages demonstrate antigenic differences. The clinical impact of hMPV warrants the development of vaccines. Recombinant soluble fusion (F) proteins of prototype viruses of the two main lineages of hMPV that can be produced in high yields have been constructed. In this study, the antigenicity, immunogenicity and protective efficacy of these soluble F subunit vaccines were evaluated in Syrian golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Immunization of hamsters with the soluble F proteins, adjuvanted with Specol or iscom matrix, induced high virus-neutralization titres, with higher titres against the homologous than the heterologous virus. The neutralizing antibodies protected from subsequent infection of the lungs with both homologous and heterologous virus. Upon challenge, viral titres in the nasal turbinates of immunized animals were reduced significantly compared with those of PBS-immunized animals. In conclusion, a soluble F subunit vaccine for hMPV that induces cross-protective immunity for infection of the lower respiratory tract in Syrian golden hamsters has been generated.