Plant-derived H7 VLP vaccine elicits protective immune response against H7N9 influenza virus in mice and ferrets

S. Pillet, T. Racine, C. Nfon, T. Z. Di Lenardo, S. Babiuk, B. J. Ward, G. P. Kobinger, N. Landry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In March 2013, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first reported case of human infection with an avian influenza A H7N9 virus. Infection with this virus often caused severe pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome resulting in a case fatality rate >35%. The risk of pandemic highlighted, once again, the need for a more rapid and scalable vaccine response capability. Here, we describe the rapid (19 days) development of a plant-derived VLP vaccine based on the hemagglutinin sequence of influenza H7N9 A/Hangzhou/1/2013. The immunogenicity of the H7 VLP vaccine was assessed in mice and ferrets after one or two intramuscular dose(s) with and without adjuvant (alum or GLA-SE™). In ferrets, we also measured H7-specific cell-mediated immunity. The mice and ferrets were then challenged with H7N9 A/Anhui/1/2013 influenza virus. A single immunization with the adjuvanted vaccine elicited a strong humoral response and protected mice against an otherwise lethal challenge. Two doses of unadjuvanted vaccine significantly increased humoral response and resulted in 100% protection with significant reduction of clinical signs leading to nearly asymptomatic infections. In ferrets, a single immunization with the alum-adjuvanted H7 VLP vaccine induced strong humoral and CMI responses with antigen-specific activation of CD3+ T cells. Compared to animals injected with placebo, ferrets vaccinated with alum-adjuvanted vaccine displayed no weight loss during the challenge. Moreover, the vaccination significantly reduced the viral load in lungs and nasal washes 3 days after the infection. This candidate plant-made H7 vaccine therefore induced protective responses after either one adjuvanted or two unadjuvanted doses. Studies are currently ongoing to better characterize the immune response elicited by the plant-derived VLP vaccines. Regardless, these data are very promising for the rapid production of an immunogenic and protective vaccine against this potentially pandemic virus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6282-6289
Number of pages8
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 17 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Ferrets
  • H7N9
  • Immunogenicity
  • Influenza A
  • Mice
  • NICOTIANA benthamiana
  • Plant-made vaccine
  • Virus-like particle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Veterinary
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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