Volume 79, Issue 6
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


The efficacy of a recombinant subunit West Nile (WN) vaccine candidate was determined in a hamster model of encephalitis. Animals included young, aged, and immunocompromised animals in an effort to simulate key groups at risk of WN virus–induced disease. Groups of aged (12 month old), weanling, and adult hamsters rendered leukopenic after immunization were immunized subcutaneously with a WN virus recombinant envelope protein (WN-80E) with or without WN virus non-structural protein 1 (NS1) mixed with adjuvant or adjuvant alone. A challenge dose of wild-type WN virus was administered to produce 40–100% mortality in the control hamsters. The recombinant antigen preparations containing WN-80E with or without WN NS1 gave similar results. Hamsters in both groups had a strong antibody response after immunization, and none of the aged or weanling animals became ill or developed detectable viremia after challenge with WN virus at 2 weeks after booster vaccination. However, mortality among the control animals (administered adjuvant without antigen) at 2 weeks after booster challenge was 40–60%. In hamsters rendered leukopenic after immunization, survival rates up to 80% were observed, and a low-level viremia was detected in the vaccinated and challenged hamsters. The survival rate was significantly ( < 0.05) higher in animals vaccinated with a higher dose of WN-80E than a lower dose. The addition of NS1 did not significantly affect survival after challenge. In contrast, all of the control animals that received adjuvant only developed a very high level of viremia, and the mortality rate was 100%. These findings indicate that the recombinant WN vaccines induced antibody in and afforded protection to young and aged hamsters and immunosuppressed hamsters.


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  • Received : 26 May 2008
  • Accepted : 12 Aug 2008

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