Conventional influenza vaccines can prevent infection, but their efficacy depends on the degree of antigenic "match" between the strains used for vaccine preparation and those circulating in the population. A universal influenza vaccine based on invariant regions of the virus, able to provide broadly cross-reactive protection, without requiring continuous manufacturing update, would solve a major medical need. Since the temporal and geographical dominance of the influenza virus type and/or subtype (A/H3, A/H1, or B) cannot yet be predicted, a universal vaccine, like the vaccines currently in use, should include both type A and type B influenza virus components. However, while encouraging preclinical data are available for influenza A virus, no candidate universal vaccine is available for influenza B virus. We show here that a peptide conjugate vaccine, based on the highly conserved maturational cleavage site of the HA0 precursor of the influenza B virus hemagglutinin, can elicit a protective immune response against lethal challenge with viruses belonging to either one of the representative, non-antigenically cross-reactive influenza B virus lineages. We demonstrate that protection by the HA0 vaccine is mediated by antibodies, probably through effector mechanisms, and that a major part of the protective response targets the most conserved region of HA0, the P1 residue of the scissile bond and the fusion peptide domain. In addition, we present preliminary evidence that the approach can be extended to influenza A virus, although the equivalent HA0 conjugate is not as efficacious as for influenza B virus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas