Vaccines 16 November 2022 | doi.org/10.3390/vaccines10111939
Sreeja R. Nair ,Rachy Abraham ,Easwaran Sreekumar
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) re-emergence in the last decade has resulted in explosive epidemics. Along with the classical symptoms of fever and debilitating arthralgia, there were occurrences of unusual clinical presentations such as neurovirulence and mortality. These generated a renewed global interest to develop prophylactic vaccines. Here, using the classical approach of virus attenuation, we developed an attenuated CHIKV strain (RGCB355/KL08-p75) for the purpose. Repeated passaging (75 times) of a local clinical isolate of ECSA lineage virus in U-87 MG human astrocytoma cells, an interferon-response-deficient cell line, resulted in efficient adaptation and attenuation. While experimental infection of 3-day old CHIKV-susceptible BALB/c pups with the parent strain RGCB355/KL08-p4 resulted in death of all the animals, there was 100% survival in mice infected with the attenuated p75. In adult, immunocompetent, CHIKV-non-susceptible C57BL/6 mice, inoculation with p75 induced high antibody response without any signs of disease. Both p4 and p75 strains are uniformly lethal to interferon-response-deficient AG129 mice. Passive protection studies in AG129 mice using immune serum against p75 resulted in complete survival. Whole-genome sequencing identified novel mutations that might be responsible for virus attenuation. Our results establish the usefulness of RGCB355/KL08-p75 as a strain for vaccine development against chikungunya.