Deletion of the vaccinia virus F13L gene results in a highly attenuated virus that mounts a protective immune response against subsequent vaccinia virus challenge

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Vaccinia virus F13L encodes the envelope protein p37, which is the target of the anti-pox virus drug ST-246 (Yang et al., 2005) and that is required for production of extracellular vaccinia virus. The F13L (p37)-deleted (and ST-246 resistant) vaccinia virus recombinant (Vac-ΔF13L) produced smaller plaques than the wild-type vaccinia (Western Reserve vaccinia). In addition, Vac-ΔF13L proved, when inoculated either intravenously or intracutaneously in both immunocompetent and immunodeficient (athymic nude or SCID) mice, to be severely attenuated. Intravenous or intracutaneous inoculation of immunocompetent mice with the ΔF13L virus efficiently protected against a subsequent intravenous, intracutaneous or intranasal challenge with vaccinia WR (Western Reserve). This was corroborated by the observation that Vac-ΔF13L induced a humoral immune response against vaccinia following either intravenous or intracutaneous challenge. In conclusion, F13L-deleted vaccinia virus may have the potential to be developed as a smallpox vaccine.

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