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Chimeric Hemagglutinin Constructs Induce Broad Protection against Influenza B Virus Challenge in the Mouse Model.


Seasonal influenza virus epidemics represent a significant public health burden. Approximately 25% of all influenza virus infections are caused by type B viruses, and these infections can be severe, especially in children. Current influenza virus vaccines are an effective prophylaxis against infection but are impacted by rapid antigenic drift, which can lead to mismatches between vaccine strains and circulating strains. Here, we describe a broadly protective vaccine candidate based on chimeric hemagglutinins, consisting of globular head domains from exotic influenza A viruses and stalk domains from influenza B viruses. Sequential vaccination with these constructs in mice leads to the induction of broadly reactive antibodies that bind to the conserved stalk domain of influenza B virus hemagglutinin. Vaccinated mice are protected from lethal challenge with diverse influenza B viruses. Results from serum transfer experiments and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) assays indicate that this protection is antibody mediated and based on Fc effector functions. The present data suggest that chimeric hemagglutinin-based vaccination is a viable strategy to broadly protect against influenza B virus infection.IMPORTANCE While current influenza virus vaccines are effective, they are affected by mismatches between vaccine strains and circulating strains. Furthermore, the antiviral drug oseltamivir is less effective for treating influenza B virus infections than for treating influenza A virus infections. A vaccine that induces broad and long-lasting protection against influenza B viruses is therefore urgently needed.

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