Petit Institute Seminar
"Zika Virus Microneedle Vaccination Confers Long-term Protection to Immune Privileged Compartments"
Ioanna Skountzou, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Emory University School of Medicine
Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Zika virus (ZIKV) has garnered global attention since outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil suggested infection with ZIKV was linked to development of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and additionally linked to congenital microcephaly in newborns from infected pregnant women. Since 2013, ZIKV has spread rapidly across the globe, infecting thousands of pregnant women and hundreds of thousands of the general population in several countries. Given ZIKV is transmitted both by sexual contact and via the arthropod vectors Aedes spp., skin vaccinations effort may prove particularly advantageous as the skin serves as the first natural host barrier ZIKV would encounter. The need for a vaccine against ZIKV remains a critical international health issue, yet few studies seek to characterize ZIKV infections and dermal immune barriers, and even less investigate ZIKV cutaneous vaccination routes. Our group has demonstrated that cutaneous vaccination using whole Zika virus inactivated particles (ZVIP) delivered by microneedle patches (MN) display greater efficacy than traditional intramuscular (IM) vaccinations. Using an immune competent BALB/c mouse model, we observed Zika virus pathogenesis can be monitored by clinical scoring methods specifically aimed toward ocular and motor/neural symptoms, as ocular conjunctivitis and arthralgia are two of the more common symptoms of ZIKV infections. Our results demonstrate MN vaccinations with ZVIP generate a greater quality of antibody response, and confer greater protection against ocular and motor/neural symptoms, infection, and tissue damage compared to IM vaccinations. This appears true for MN vaccinations in both a prime only, and a prime/boost vaccine course. Given that ZIKV has shown a proclivity for immune privileged compartments, such as the eyes, brain, and spinal cord; the development of a safe and protective vaccine against ZIKV should demonstrate protection for these three compartments, while minimizing the risk of auto-reactive antibodies that lead to nervous system damage and GBS.