Immunization with recombinant accessory protein-deficient SARS-CoV-2 protects against lethal challenge and viral transmission.

Academic Article


  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has led to a worldwide Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Despite high efficacy of the authorized vaccines, protection against the surging variants of concern (VoC) was less robust. Live-attenuated vaccines (LAV) have been shown to elicit robust and long-term protection by induction of host innate and adaptive immune responses. We sought to develop a COVID-19 LAV by generating 3 double open reading frame (ORF)-deficient recombinant (r)SARS-CoV-2 simultaneously lacking two accessory open reading frame (ORF) proteins (ORF3a/ORF6, ORF3a/ORF7a, and ORF3a/ORF7b). Here, we report that these double ORF-deficient rSARS-CoV-2 have slower replication kinetics and reduced fitness in cultured cells as compared to their parental wild-type (WT) counterpart. Importantly, these double ORF-deficient rSARS-CoV-2 showed attenuation in both K18 hACE2 transgenic mice and golden Syrian hamsters. A single intranasal dose vaccination induced high levels of neutralizing antibodies against different SARS-CoV-2 VoC, and also activated viral component-specific T-cell responses. Notably, the double ORF-deficient rSARS-CoV-2 were able to protect, as determined by inhibition of viral replication, shedding, and transmission, against challenge with SARS-CoV-2. Collectively, our results demonstrate the feasibility to implement these double ORF-deficient rSARS-CoV-2 as safe, stable, immunogenic and protective LAV for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection and associated COVID-19 disease.
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    Author List

  • Ye C; Park J-G; Chiem K; Dravid P; AlluĂ©-Guardia A; Garcia-Vilanova A; Kapoor A; Walter MR; Kobie JJ; Plemper RK