Zika virus (ZIKV) caused an epidemic of congenital malformations in 2015-2016. Although many vaccine candidates have been generated, few have demonstrated efficacy against congenital ZIKV infection. Here, we evaluated lipid-encapsulated mRNA vaccines and a DNA plasmid vaccine encoding the prM-E genes of ZIKV in mouse models of congenital infection. Although the DNA vaccine provided comparable efficacy against vertical transmission of ZIKV, the mRNA vaccines, including one that minimizes antibody-dependent enhancement of infection, elicited higher levels of antigen-specific long-lived plasma cells and memory B cells. Despite the induction of robust neutralizing antibody titers by all vaccines, breakthrough seeding of the placenta and fetal head was observed in a small subset of type I interferon signaling deficient immunocompromised dams. In comparison, evaluation of one of the mRNA vaccines in a human STAT2-knock-in transgenic immunocompetent mouse showed complete protection against congenital ZIKV transmission. These data will inform ongoing human ZIKV vaccine development efforts and enhance our understanding of the correlates of vaccine-induced protection.
B. W. Jagger, Kimberly A. Dowd, Rita E. Chen
The Journal of infectious diseases