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Front Immunol ; 13: 948431, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2022730


Emergence of variants of concern (VOC) during the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the decreased efficacy of therapeutic monoclonal antibody treatments for severe cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, the cost of creating these therapeutic treatments is high, making their implementation in low- to middle-income countries devastated by the pandemic very difficult. Here, we explored the use of polyclonal EpF(ab')2 antibodies generated through the immunization of horses with SARS-CoV-2 WA-1 RBD conjugated to HBsAg nanoparticles as a low-cost therapeutic treatment for severe cases of disease. We determined that the equine EpF(ab')2 bind RBD and neutralize ACE2 receptor binding by virus for all VOC strains tested except Omicron. Despite its relatively quick clearance from peripheral circulation, a 100µg dose of EpF(ab')2 was able to fully protect mice against severe disease phenotypes following intranasal SARS-CoV-2 challenge with Alpha and Beta variants. EpF(ab')2 administration increased survival while subsequently lowering disease scores and viral RNA burden in disease-relevant tissues. No significant improvement in survival outcomes or disease scores was observed in EpF(ab')2-treated mice challenged using the Delta variant at 10µg or 100µg doses. Overall, the data presented here provide a proof of concept for the use of EpF(ab')2 in the prevention of severe SARS-CoV-2 infections and underscore the need for either variant-specific treatments or variant-independent therapeutics for COVID-19.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , COVID-19/prevention & control , Horses , Humans , Immunization, Passive , Melphalan , Mice , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , gamma-Globulins
PLoS One ; 17(8): e0273430, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2021918


The COVID-19 pandemic has been fueled by SARS-CoV-2 novel variants of concern (VOC) that have increased transmissibility, receptor binding affinity, and other properties that enhance disease. The goal of this study is to characterize unique pathogenesis of the Delta VOC strain in the K18-hACE2-mouse challenge model. Challenge studies suggested that the lethal dose of Delta was higher than Alpha or Beta strains. To characterize the differences in the Delta strain's pathogenesis, a time-course experiment was performed to evaluate the overall host response to Alpha or Delta variant challenge. qRT-PCR analysis of Alpha- or Delta-challenged mice revealed no significant difference between viral RNA burden in the lung, nasal wash or brain. However, histopathological analysis revealed high lung tissue inflammation and cell infiltration following Delta- but not Alpha-challenge at day 6. Additionally, pro-inflammatory cytokines were highest at day 6 in Delta-challenged mice suggesting enhanced pneumonia. Total RNA-sequencing analysis of lungs comparing challenged to no challenge mice revealed that Alpha-challenged mice have more total genes differentially activated. Conversely, Delta-challenged mice have a higher magnitude of differential gene expression. Delta-challenged mice have increased interferon-dependent gene expression and IFN-γ production compared to Alpha. Analysis of TCR clonotypes suggested that Delta challenged mice have increased T-cell infiltration compared to Alpha challenged. Our data suggest that Delta has evolved to engage interferon responses in a manner that may enhance pathogenesis. The in vivo and in silico observations of this study underscore the need to conduct experiments with VOC strains to best model COVID-19 when evaluating therapeutics and vaccines.

COVID-19 , Pneumonia , Animals , Antiviral Agents , COVID-19/genetics , Disease Models, Animal , Humans , Interferons , Melphalan , Mice , Mice, Transgenic , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2 , gamma-Globulins
mSphere ; 7(4): e0024322, 2022 08 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1992945


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has contributed largely to the global vaccine disparity. Development of protein subunit vaccines can help alleviate shortages of COVID-19 vaccines delivered to low-income countries. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of a three-dose virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine composed of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) decorated with the receptor binding domain (RBD) from the Wuhan or Beta SARS-CoV-2 strain adjuvanted with either aluminum hydroxide (alum) or squalene in water emulsion (SWE). RBD HBsAg vaccines were compared to the standard two doses of Pfizer mRNA vaccine. Alum-adjuvanted vaccines were composed of either HBsAg conjugated with Beta RBD alone (ß RBD HBsAg+Al) or a combination of both Beta RBD HBsAg and Wuhan RBD HBsAg (ß/Wu RBD HBsAg+Al). RBD vaccines adjuvanted with SWE were formulated with Beta RBD HBsAg (ß RBD HBsAg+SWE) or without HBsAg (ß RBD+SWE). Both alum-adjuvanted RBD HBsAg vaccines generated functional RBD IgG against multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC), decreased viral RNA burden, and lowered inflammation in the lung against Alpha or Beta challenge in K18-hACE2 mice. However, only ß/Wu RBD HBsAg+Al was able to afford 100% survival to mice challenged with Alpha or Beta VOC. Furthermore, mice immunized with ß RBD HBsAg+SWE induced cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies against major VOC of SARS-CoV-2, lowered viral RNA burden in the lung and brain, and protected mice from Alpha or Beta challenge similarly to mice immunized with Pfizer mRNA. However, RBD+SWE immunization failed to protect mice from VOC challenge. Our findings demonstrate that RBD HBsAg VLP vaccines provided similar protection profiles to the approved Pfizer mRNA vaccines used worldwide and may offer protection against SARS-CoV-2 VOC. IMPORTANCE Global COVID-19 vaccine distribution to low-income countries has been a major challenge of the pandemic. To address supply chain issues, RBD virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines that are cost-effective and capable of large-scale production were developed and evaluated for efficacy in preclinical mouse studies. We demonstrated that RBD-VLP vaccines protected K18-hACE2 mice against Alpha or Beta challenge similarly to Pfizer mRNA vaccination. Our findings showed that the VLP platform can be utilized to formulate immunogenic and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 , Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle , Alum Compounds , Animals , Antibodies, Viral , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19 Vaccines , Emulsions , Hepatitis B Surface Antigens/genetics , Humans , Melphalan , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Pandemics , RNA, Messenger , RNA, Viral , SARS-CoV-2 , Squalene , Vaccines, Synthetic , Water , gamma-Globulins , mRNA Vaccines