BACKGROUND. Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is under consideration as a promising recombinant viral vector to deliver foreign antigens including HIV. However, new vectors have come under increased scrutiny, since trials with adenovirus serotype 5–vectored (Ad5-vectored) HIV vaccine demonstrated increased HIV risk in individuals with pre-immunity to the vector that was thought to be associated with mucosal immune activation (IA). Therefore, given the prospect of developing an HIV/VZV chimeric vaccine, it is particularly important to define the impact of VZV vaccination on IA. METHODS. Healthy VZV-seropositive Kenyan women (n = 44) were immunized with high-dose live attenuated VZV vaccine, and we assessed the expression on CD4+ T cells isolated from blood, cervix, and rectum of IA markers including CD38 and HLA-DR and of markers of cell migration and tissue retention, as well as the concentration of genital and intestinal cytokines. A delayed-start group (n = 22) was used to control for natural variations in these parameters. RESULTS. Although immunogenic, VZV vaccination did not result in significant difference in the frequency of cervical activated (HLA-DR+CD38+) CD4+ T cells (median 1.61%, IQR 0.93%–2.76%) at 12 weeks after vaccination when compared with baseline (median 1.58%, IQR 0.75%–3.04%), the primary outcome for this study. VZV vaccination also had no measurable effect on any of the IA parameters at 4, 8, and 12 weeks after vaccination. CONCLUSION. This study provides the first evidence to our knowledge about the effects of VZV vaccination on human mucosal IA status and supports further evaluation of VZV as a potential vector for an HIV vaccine. TRIAL REGISTRATION. ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02514018. FUNDING. Primary support from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). For other sources, see Acknowledgments.
Catia T. Perciani, Bashir Farah, Rupert Kaul, Mario A. Ostrowski, Salaheddin M. Mahmud, Omu Anzala, Walter Jaoko, KAVI-ICR Team, Kelly S. MacDonald