Plant-derived hemagglutinin protects ferrets against challenge infection with the A/Indonesia/05/05 strain of avian influenza
The global spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1 subtype) has promoted efforts to develop human vaccines against potential pandemic outbreaks. However, current platforms for influenza vaccine production are cumbersome, limited in scalability and often require the handling of live infectious virus. We describe the production of hemagglutinin from the A/Indonesia/05/05 strain of H5N1 influenza virus by transient expression in plants, and demonstrate the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of the vaccine candidate in animal models. Immunization of mice and ferrets with plant-derived hemagglutinin elicited serum hemagglutinin-inhibiting antibodies and protected the ferrets against challenge infection with a homologous virus. This demonstrates that plant-derived H5 HA is immunogenic in mice and ferrets, and can induce protective immunity against infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. Plants could therefore be Suitable as a platform for the rapid, large-scale production of influenza vaccines in the face of a pandemic.