Development of influenza vaccines capable of inducing broad protection against different virus subtypes is necessary given the ever-changing viral genetic landscape. Previously, we showed that vaccination with whole inactivated virus (WIV) induces heterosubtypic protection against lethal virus infection in mice. Whole inactivated virus-induced cross-protection was found to be mediated primarily by flu-specific CD8+ T cells.
As it has been demonstrated that the route of vaccine administration strongly influences both the quantity and quality of vaccine-induced immunity, in this study, we determined which route of WIV administration induces optimal heterosubtypic cross-protection.
We compared the magnitude of the immune response and heterosubtypic protection against lethal A/PR/8/34 (H1N1) infection after subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), and intranasal (IN) vaccination with A/NIBRG-14 (H5N1) WIV.
Subcutaneous and IM administration was superior to IN administration of influenza WIV in terms of flu-specific CD8+ T-cell induction and protection of mice against lethal heterosubtypic challenge. Surprisingly, despite the very low flu-specific CD8+ T-cell responses detected in IN-vaccinated mice, these animals were partially protected, most likely due to cross-reactive IgA antibodies.
The results of this study show that the magnitude of WIV-induced flu-specific CD8+ T-cell activity depends on the applied vaccination route. We conclude that parenteral administration of WIV vaccine, in particular IM injection, is superior to IN vaccine delivery for the induction of heterosubtypic cross-protection and generally appears to elicit stronger immune responses than mucosal vaccination with WIV.