Yellow fever (YF) 17D vaccine virus, having a 60-year history of safe and effective use, is an ideal vector to deliver heterologous genes from other medically important flaviviruses. A chimeric YF/Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus (ChimeriVaxJE virus) was constructed by insertion of the premembrane and envelope (prME) genes of an attenuated human vaccine strain (SA14-14-2) of Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus between core and nonstructural (NS) genes of a YF 17D infectious clone. The virus grew to high titers in cell cultures and was not neurovirulent for 3- to 4-week-old mice at doses ≤6 log10 plaque forming units (pfu) inoculated by the intracerebral (IC) route. In contrast, commercial YF 17D vaccine was highly neurovirulent for weanling mice by the same route. Mice inoculated subcutaneously with one dose of ≥103 pfu of ChimeriVax-JE virus were solidly protected against intraperitoneal challenge with a virulent JE virus. Genetic stability of the chimera was assessed by sequential passages in cell cultures or in mouse brain. All attenuating residues and the avirulent phenotype were preserved after 18 passages in cell cultures or 6 passages in mouse brains.
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