Subunit vaccines based on the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) glycoprotein D (gD-2) have been the major focus of HSV-2 vaccine development for the past 2 decades. Based on the promising data generated in the guinea pig model, a formulation containing truncated gD-2, aluminum salt, and MPL (gD/AS04) advanced to clinical trials. The results of these trials, however, were unexpected, as the vaccine protected against HSV-1 infection but not against HSV-2. To address this discrepancy, we developed a Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA)-treated cotton rat Sigmodon hispidus model of HSV-2 and HSV-1 genital infection. The severity of HSV-1 genital herpes was less than that of HSV-2 genital herpes in cotton rats, and yet the model allowed for comparative evaluation of gD/AS04 immunogenicity and efficacy. Cotton rats were intramuscularly vaccinated using a prime boost strategy with gD/AS04 (Simplirix vaccine) or control vaccine formulation (hepatitis B vaccine FENDrix) and subsequently challenged intravaginally with HSV-2 or HSV-1. The gD/AS04 vaccine was immunogenic in cotton rats and induced serum IgG directed against gD-2 and serum HSV-2 neutralizing antibodies but failed to efficiently protect against HSV-2 disease or to decrease the HSV-2 viral load. However, gD/AS04 significantly reduced vaginal titers of HSV-1 and better protected animals against HSV-1 compared to HSV-2 genital disease. The latter finding is generally consistent with the clinical outcome of the Herpevac trial of Simplirix. Passive transfer of serum from gD/AS04-immunized cotton rats conferred stronger protection against HSV-1 genital disease. These findings suggest the need for alternative vaccine strategies and the identification of new correlates of protection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science