Engineering a fidelity-variant live-attenuated vaccine for chikungunya virus

Christopher M. Weiss, Hongwei Liu, Kasen K. Riemersma, Erin E. Ball, Lark L. Coffey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), which causes a febrile illness characterized by severe and prolonged polyarthralgia/polyarthritis, is responsible for a global disease burden of millions of cases each year with autochthonous transmission in over 100 countries and territories worldwide. There is currently no approved treatment or vaccine for CHIKV. One live-attenuated vaccine (LAV) developed by the United States Army progressed to Phase II human clinical trials but was withdrawn when 8% of volunteers developed joint pain associated with vaccination. Attenuation of the Army’s CHIKV LAV strain 181 clone 25 (CHIKV-181/25) relies on two mutations in the envelope 2 (E2) glycoprotein responsible for cell binding and entry, making it particularly prone to reversion, a common concern for replication-competent vaccines. High error rates associated with RNA virus replication have posed a challenge for LAV development where stable incorporation of attenuating elements is necessary for establishing safety in pre-clinical models. Herein, we incorporate two replicase mutations into CHIKV-181/25 which modulate CHIKV replication fidelity combined with additional attenuating features that cannot be eliminated by point mutation. The mutations were stably incorporated in the LAV and did not increase virulence in mice. Two fidelity-variant CHIKV LAVs generated neutralizing antibodies and were protective from CHIKV disease in adult mice. Unexpectedly, our fidelity-variant candidates were more mutable than CHIKV-181/25 and exhibited restricted replication in mice and Aedes mosquitoes, a possible consequence of hypermutation. Our data demonstrate safety and efficacy but highlight a further need to evaluate fidelity-altering phenotypes before use as a LAV given the potential for virulent reversion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number97
Journalnpj Vaccines
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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