A boosting skin vaccination with dissolving microneedle patch encapsulating M2e vaccine broadens the protective efficacy of conventional influenza vaccines

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The biodegradable microneedle patch (MNP) is a novel technology for vaccine delivery that could improve the immunogenicity of vaccines. To broaden the protective efficiency of conventional influenza vaccines, a new 4M2e-tFliC fusion protein construct containing M2e sequences from different subtypes was generated. Purified fusion protein was encapsulate into MNPs with a biocompatible polymer for use as a boosting vaccine. The results demonstrated that mice receiving a conventional inactivated vaccine followed by a skin-applied dissolving 4M2e-tFliC MNP boost could better maintain the humoral antibody response than that by the conventional vaccine-prime alone. Compared with an intramuscular injection boost, mice receiving the MNP boost showed significantly enhanced cellular immune responses, hemagglutination-inhibition (HAI) titers, and neutralization titers. Increased frequency of antigen-specific plasma cells and long-lived bone marrow plasma cells was detected in the MNP boosted group as well, indicating that skin vaccination with 4M2e-tFliC facilitated a long-term antibody-mediated immunity. The 4M2e-tFliC MNP-boosted group also possessed enhanced protection against high lethal dose challenges against homologous A/PR/8/34 and A/Aichi/2/68 viruses and protection for a majority of immunized mice against a heterologous A/California/07/2009 H1N1 virus. High levels of M2e specific immune responses were observed in the 4M2e-tFliC MNP-boosted group as well. These results demonstrate that a skin-applied 4M2e-tFliC MNP boosting immunization to seasonal vaccine recipients may be a rapid approach for increasing the protective efficacy of seasonal vaccines in response to a significant drift seen in circulating viruses. The results also provide a new perspective for future exploration of universal influenza vaccines.

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