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Development and use of Lentiviral Vectors Pseudotyped with Influenza B Haemagglutinins: application to vaccine immunogenicity, mAb potency and sero-surveillance studies

By Francesca Ferrara, George Carnell, Rebecca Kinsley, Eva Böttcher-Friebertshäuser, Stefan Pöhlmann, Simon Scott, Sasan Fereidouni, Davide Corti, Paul Kellam, Sarah C. Gilbert, Nigel Temperton

Posted 10 Dec 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/492785

Influenza B viruses cause respiratory disease epidemics in human populations and are included in seasonal influenza vaccines. Serological methods are employed to evaluate vaccine immunogenicity prior to licensure. However, the haemagglutination inhibition assay, which represents the gold standard for assessing the immunogenicity of influenza vaccines, has been shown to be relatively insensitive for the detection of antibodies against influenza B viruses. Furthermore, this assay, and the serial radial haemolysis assay are not able to detect stalk-directed cross-reactive antibodies. For these reasons there is a need to develop new assays that can overcome these limitations. The use of replication-defective viruses, such as lentiviral vectors pseudotyped with influenza A haemagglutinins, in microneutralization assays is a safe and sensitive alternative to study antibody responses elicited by natural infection or vaccination. We have produced Influenza B haemagglutinin-pseudotypes using plasmid-directed transfection. To activate influenza B haemagglutinin, we have explored the use of proteases by adding relevant encoding plasmids to the transfection mixture. When tested for their ability to transduce target cells, the newly produced influenza B pseudotypes exhibit tropism for different cell lines. Subsequently the pseudotypes were evaluated as surrogate antigens in microneutralization assays using reference sera, monoclonal antibodies, human sera collected during a vaccine immunogenicity study and surveillance sera from seals. The influenza B pseudotype virus neutralization assay was found to effectively detect neutralizing and cross-reactive responses despite lack of significant correlation with the haemagglutinin inhibition assay.

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