Safety and immunogenicity of a recombinant hemagglutinin vaccine for H5 influenza in humans.
Recent outbreaks of avian influenza in humans have demonstrated the need for vaccines for influenza viruses with pandemic potential. Recombinant hemagglutinins are an attractive option for such vaccines because they do not require handling potentially highly pathogenic influenza viruses for vaccine production. In order to evaluate the immunogenicity, optimum dosing and timing of administration of a recombinant baculovirus-expressed H5 HA (rH5) in humans, 147 healthy adults were assigned randomly to receive intramuscular rH5 as two doses of 25, 45 or 90 microg each, one dose of 90 microg followed by a dose of 10 microg, or two doses of placebo, at intervals between doses of 21, 28 or 42 days. All doses of rH5 were well tolerated. The rH5 vaccine was modestly immunogenic at high dose. Neutralizing antibody responses to a titer of 1:80 or greater were seen in 23% (14/60) of individuals after a single dose of 90 microg, and in 52% (15/29) after two doses of 90 microg. Varying intervals between doses from 21 to 42 days had no significant effect on antibody responses to vaccination. These results suggest that baculovirus-expressed H5 HA can induce functional antibody in individuals who have not had prior exposure to H5 viruses, but that further studies to improve the immunogenicity of the vaccine are needed.