Postexposure immunization can prevent disease and reduce transmission following pathogen exposure. The rapid immunostimulatory properties of recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV)-based vaccines make them suitable postexposure treatments against the filoviruses Ebola virus and Marburg virus (MARV); however, the mechanisms that drive this protection are undefined. Previously, we reported 60–75% survival of rhesus macaques treated with rVSV vectors expressing MARV glycoprotein (GP) 20–30 minutes after a low dose exposure to the most pathogenic variant of MARV, Angola. Survival in this model was linked to production of GP-specific antibodies and lower viral load. To confirm these results and potentially identify novel correlates of postexposure protection, we performed a similar experiment, but analyzed plasma cytokine levels, frequencies of immune cell subsets, and the transcriptional response to infection in peripheral blood. In surviving macaques (80–89%), we observed induction of genes mapping to antiviral and interferon-related pathways early after treatment and a higher percentage of T helper 1 (Th1) and NK cells. In contrast, the response of non-surviving macaques was characterized by hypercytokinemia; a T helper 2 signature; recruitment of low HLA-DR expressing monocytes and regulatory T-cells; and transcription of immune checkpoint (e.g., PD-1, LAG3) genes. These results suggest dysregulated immunoregulation is associated with poor prognosis, whereas early innate signaling and Th1-skewed immunity are important for survival.
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