Safety and efficacy of four-segmented Rift Valley fever virus in young sheep, goats and cattle

Wichgers Schreur, Paul J.; Oreshkova, Nadia; Keulen, Lucien van; Kant, Jet; Water, Sandra van de; Soós, Pál; Dehon, Yves; Kollár, Anna; Pénzes, Zoltán; Kortekaas, Jeroen


Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a mosquito-borne bunyavirus that causes severe and recurrent outbreaks on the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula and continues to expand its habitat. RVFV induces severe disease in newborns and abortion in pregnant ruminants. The viral genome consists of a small (S), medium (M) and large (L) RNA segment of negative polarity. The M segment encodes a glycoprotein precursor protein that is co-translationally cleaved into the two structural glycoproteins Gn and Gc, which are involved in receptor attachment and cell entry. We previously constructed a four-segmented RVFV (RVFV-4s) by splitting the M genome segment into two M-type segments encoding either Gn or Gc. RVFV-4s replicates efficiently in cell culture but was shown to be completely avirulent in mice, lambs and pregnant ewes. Here, we show that a RVFV-4s candidate vaccine for veterinary use (vRVFV-4s) does not disseminate in vaccinated animals, is not shed or spread to the environment and does not revert to virulence. Furthermore, a single vaccination of lambs, goat kids and calves was shown to induce protective immunity against a homologous challenge. Finally, the vaccine was shown to provide full protection against a genetically distinct RVFV strain. Altogether, we demonstrate that vRVFV-4s optimally combines efficacy with safety, holding great promise as a next-generation RVF vaccine.