Differential Reactivity of Immune Sera from Human Vaccinees with Field Strains of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus

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  • Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus is a mosquito-borne alphavirus that can produce a severe and often fatal acute encephalitis in humans, with significant neurologic sequelae in survivors. Due to the serious nature of the disease, an investigational inactivated EEE vaccine (PE-6) is available to individuals at risk for infection. Both serologic and recent molecular analyses of EEE viruses have demonstrated marked differences between the two antigenic varieties of EEE virus, designated North American (NA) and South American (SA). In view of these findings, we have examined the reactivity of sera from three individuals immunized with the EEE vaccine, derived from an NA isolate, with field strains of EEE virus. Anti-EEE serum antibodies from vaccinees reacted strongly in Western blot assays with both of the envelope (E1 and E2) glycoproteins of each NA strain examined, while reactivities with the glycoproteins of SA strains were substantially weaker and variable and dependent upon both the immune response of the vaccinee and the virus isolate assayed. Most striking was the modest to virtual lack of reactivity with the E2 protein of SA strains. Antigenic differences among the glycoproteins of EEE viruses were not as pronounced in immunoprecipitation analysis. Most significantly, although human immune sera displayed high neutralizing titers against each of the NA isolates examined, only negligible neutralizing titers were obtained against SA isolates. These data suggest that immunized individuals would mount an effective antibody response against infection with NA strains of EEE virus, but that further investigation is clearly warranted to fully assess the protective capability of the vaccine against infection with SA strains.