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Keywords:

  • hepatitis E virus;
  • vaccine development;
  • recombinant vaccine;
  • protein expression;
  • primates

Abstract

Immunization of two cynomolgus macaques (cynos) with trpE-C2 protein, a trpE-HEV fusion protein that represents the carboxyl two thirds of the putative capsid protein, prevented development of biochemical evidence of viral hepatitis in these primates after challenge by wild-type HEV from either a Burmese or Mexican stool isolate. Neither of the immunized animals showed any elevation of alanine aminotransferase activity after challenge with wild-type HEV in marked contrast with the unimmunized (control) cynos. In the case of the Burmese HEV challenged cyno, the protective effect was complete with the animal failing to demonstrate any evidence of HEV infection. The immunized cyno challenged with Burmese HEV did not exhibit any HEV RNA in its stools or HEV antigen in its liver. The immunized cyno (#8902) challenged with Mexican virus exhibited HEV RNA in its stools and HEV antigen in its liver; however, microscopic examination of liver biopsy specimens from this cyno failed to detect histopathologic evidence of viral hepatitis. All of the animals (naive and immunized) developed anti-HEV IgM and IgG responses after HEV challenge. Our preliminary studies indicate that the trpE-C2 protein is a promising candidate HEV vaccine.