The cornea is essential for vision yet highly sensitive to immune-mediated damage following infection. Generating vaccines that provide sterile immunity against ocular surface pathogens without evoking vision loss is therefore clinically challenging. Here, we tested a prophylactic live-attenuated vaccine against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), a widespread human pathogen that can cause corneal blindness. Parenteral vaccination of mice resulted in sterile immunity to subsequent HSV-1 challenge in the cornea and suppressed productive infection of the nervous system. This protection was unmatched by a relevant glycoprotein subunit vaccine. Efficacy of the live-attenuated vaccine involved a T-dependent humoral immune response and complement C3 but not Fcγ-receptor 3 or interferon-α/β signaling. Proteomic analysis of viral proteins recognized by antiserum revealed an unexpected repertoire dominated by sequestered antigens rather than surface-exposed envelope glycoproteins. Ocular HSV-1 challenge in naive and subunit-vaccinated mice triggered vision loss and severe ocular pathologies including corneal opacification, scar formation, neovascularization, and sensation loss. However, corneal pathology was absent in mice receiving the live-attenuated vaccine concomitant with complete preservation of visual acuity. Collectively, this is the first comprehensive report of a prophylactic vaccine candidate that elicits resistance to ocular HSV-1 infection while fully preserving the cornea and visual acuity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy