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PLOS ONE  2014 

Randomized Controlled Ferret Study to Assess the Direct Impact of 2008–09 Trivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccine on A(H1N1)pdm09 Disease Risk

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086555

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During spring-summer 2009, several observational studies from Canada showed increased risk of medically-attended, laboratory-confirmed A(H1N1)pdm09 illness among prior recipients of 2008–09 trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV). Explanatory hypotheses included direct and indirect vaccine effects. In a randomized placebo-controlled ferret study, we tested whether prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV may have directly influenced A(H1N1)pdm09 illness. Thirty-two ferrets (16/group) received 0.5 mL intra-muscular injections of the Canadian-manufactured, commercially-available, non-adjuvanted, split 2008–09 Fluviral or PBS placebo on days 0 and 28. On day 49 all animals were challenged (Ch0) with A(H1N1)pdm09. Four ferrets per group were randomly selected for sacrifice at day 5 post-challenge (Ch+5) and the rest followed until Ch+14. Sera were tested for antibody to vaccine antigens and A(H1N1)pdm09 by hemagglutination inhibition (HI), microneutralization (MN), nucleoprotein-based ELISA and HA1-based microarray assays. Clinical characteristics and nasal virus titers were recorded pre-challenge then post-challenge until sacrifice when lung virus titers, cytokines and inflammatory scores were determined. Baseline characteristics were similar between the two groups of influenza-na?ve animals. Antibody rise to vaccine antigens was evident by ELISA and HA1-based microarray but not by HI or MN assays; virus challenge raised antibody to A(H1N1)pdm09 by all assays in both groups. Beginning at Ch+2, vaccinated animals experienced greater loss of appetite and weight than placebo animals, reaching the greatest between-group difference in weight loss relative to baseline at Ch+5 (7.4% vs. 5.2%; p = 0.01). At Ch+5 vaccinated animals had higher lung virus titers (log-mean 4.96 vs. 4.23pfu/mL, respectively; p = 0.01), lung inflammatory scores (5.8 vs. 2.1, respectively; p = 0.051) and cytokine levels (p>0.05). At Ch+14, both groups had recovered. Findings in influenza-na?ve, systematically-infected ferrets may not replicate the human experience. While they cannot be considered conclusive to explain human observations, these ferret findings are consistent with direct, adverse effect of prior 2008–09 TIV receipt on A(H1N1)pdm09 illness. As such, they warrant further in-depth investigation and search for possible mechanistic explanations.


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