, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 342-349
Date: 31 Jan 2014

Simplifying Influenza Vaccination During Pandemics: Sublingual Priming and Intramuscular Boosting of Immune Responses with Heterologous Whole Inactivated Influenza Vaccine

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Abstract

The best approach to control the spread of influenza virus during a pandemic is vaccination. Yet, an appropriate vaccine is not available early in the pandemic since vaccine production is time consuming. For influenza strains with a high pandemic potential like H5N1, stockpiling of vaccines has been considered but is hampered by rapid antigenic drift of the virus. It has, however, been shown that immunization with a given H5N1 strain can prime the immune system for a later booster with a drifted variant. Here, we investigated whether whole inactivated virus (WIV) vaccine can be processed to tablets suitable for sublingual (s.l.) use and whether s.l. vaccine administration can prime the immune system for a later intramuscular (i.m.) boost with a heterologous vaccine. In vitro results demonstrate that freeze-drying and tableting of WIV did not affect the integrity of the viral proteins or the hemagglutinating properties of the viral particles. Immunization experiments revealed that s.l. priming with WIV (prepared from the H5N1 vaccine strain NIBRG-14) 4 weeks prior to i.m. booster immunization with the same virus strongly enhanced hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) titers against NIBRG-14 and the drifted variant NIBRG-23. Moreover, s.l. (and i.m.) immunization with NIBRG-14 also primed for a subsequent heterologous i.m. booster immunization with NIBRG-23 vaccine. In addition to HI serum antibodies, s.l. priming enhanced lung and nose IgA responses, while i.m. priming enhanced lung IgA but not nose IgA levels. Our results identify s.l. vaccination as a user-friendly method to prime for influenza-specific immune responses toward homologous and drifted variants.

Anke Huckriede and Wouter L. J. Hinrichs contributed equally to this work.