Exploiting viral natural history for vaccine development

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The partial successes of the Phase 2 gB-based vaccine trials for HCMV highlight the very real likelihood that vaccine-mediated induction of antibodies that neutralize the fusion pathway of fibroblast infection is not sufficient as a singular strategy to confer protective efficacy against primary HCMV infection. Alternative strategies that serve as adjuncts to gB-based vaccines are likely required to target different aspects of the complex lifecycle of HCMV infection. There has been considerable recent interest in targeting the gH/gL/UL128/UL130/UL131 pentamer complex (gH/gL-PC) to neutralize the endocytic pathway of HCMV infection of epithelial and endothelial cells. Since both cell types are critical during primary mucosal infection, intrahost spread, and shedding of HCMV in an infected host, the gH/gL-PC represents a high-value target for vaccination to interrupt the HCMV lifecycle. The natural history of HCMV is exceedingly complex and incompletely resolved, and the protective efficacy generated by gH/gL-PC remains to be validated in clinical trials. Yet, there are salient aspects of its lifecycle that offer clues about how other novel vaccine strategies can be targeted to especially susceptible parts of the viral proteome to significantly disrupt HCMV’s ability to infect susceptible hosts. In particular, the protracted evolution of Herpesvirales has endowed HCMV with two remarkable properties of its natural history: (1) lifelong persistence within immune hosts that develop extraordinarily large antiviral immune responses and (2) the ability to reinfect those with prior immunity. The latter phenotype strongly implies that, if HCMV can overcome prior immunity to initiate a new infection, it is likely irrelevant whether prior immunity derives from prior infection or prior vaccination. Both phenotypes are unified by the extensive devotion of the HCMV coding repertoire (~50 %) to viral proteins that modulate host cell signaling, trafficking, activation, antigen presentation, and resistance to apoptosis. Collectively, these viral proteins are the likely reason for the high barrier to success for the 4-decade effort to design an HCMV vaccine, and they represent the viral proteins that make HCMV be the virus that it is. James Hanshaw wrote in 1971 that, based on a 15-year retrospective of congenital HCMV cases, “… any thoughtful program designed at prevention or treatment deserves consideration”. Drawing upon natural history data from the nonhuman primate model of HCMV persistence and pathogenesis, a “thoughtful program” is put forth that HCMV immune-modulating proteins should be considered as vaccine candidates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-262
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Microbiology and Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 27 2015


  • Cytomegalovirus vaccine
  • Immune modulation
  • Viral interleukin-10
  • Viral natural history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploiting viral natural history for vaccine development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this