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Impact of molecular modifications on the Immunogenicity and efficacy of recombinant raccoon poxvirus-vectored rabies vaccine candidates in mice

December 4, 2021

Rabies is an ancient disease that is responsible for approximately 59,000 human deaths annually. Bats (Order Chiroptera) are thought to be the original hosts of rabies virus (RABV) and currently account for most rabies cases in wildlife in the Americas. Vaccination is being used to manage rabies in other wildlife reservoirs like fox and raccoon, but no rabies vaccine is available for bats. We previously developed a recombinant raccoonpox virus (RCN) vaccine candidate expressing a mosaic glycoprotein (MoG) gene that protected mice and big brown bats when challenged with RABV. In this study, we developed two new recombinant RCN candidates expressing MoG (RCN-tPA-MoG and RCN-SS-TD-MoG) with the aim of improving RCN-MoG. We assessed and compared in vitro expression, in vivo immunogenicity, and protective efficacy in vaccinated mice challenged intracerebrally with RABV. All three candidates induced significant humoral immune responses, and inoculation with RCN-tPA-MoG or RCN-MoG significantly increased survival after RABV challenge. These results demonstrate the importance of considering molecular elements in the design of vaccines, and that vaccination with either RCN-tPA-MoG or RCN-MoG confers adequate protection from rabies infection, and either may be a sufficient vaccine candidate for bats in future work.