Pre-existing immunity to human adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) is common in the general population. Bypassing pre-existing immunity could maximize Ad5 vaccine efficacy. Vaccination by the intramuscular (I.M.), nasal (I.N.) or oral (P.O.) route with Ad5 expressing Ebola Zaire glycoprotein (Ad5-ZGP) fully protected naïve mice against lethal challenge with Ebola. In the presence of pre-existing immunity, only mice vaccinated I.N. survived. The frequency of IFN-γ+ CD8+ T cells was reduced by 80% and by 15% in animals vaccinated by the I.M. and P.O. routes respectively. Neutralizing antibodies could not be detected in serum from either treatment group. Pre-existing immunity did not compromise the frequency of IFN-γ+ CD8+ T cells (3.9±1% naïve vs. 3.6±1% pre-existing immunity, PEI) nor anti-Ebola neutralizing antibody (NAB, 40±10 reciprocal dilution, both groups). The number of INF-γ+ CD8+ cells detected in bronchioalveolar lavage fluid (BAL) after I.N. immunization was not compromised by pre-existing immunity to Ad5 (146±14, naïve vs. 120±16 SFC/million MNCs, PEI). However, pre-existing immunity reduced NAB levels in BAL by ∼25% in this group. To improve the immune response after oral vaccination, the Ad5-based vaccine was PEGylated. Mice given the modified vaccine did not survive challenge and had reduced levels of IFN-γ+ CD8+ T cells 10 days after administration (0.3±0.3% PEG vs. 1.7±0.5% unmodified). PEGylation did increase NAB levels 2-fold. These results provide some insight about the degree of T and B cell mediated immunity necessary for protection against Ebola virus and suggest that modification of the virus capsid can influence the type of immune response elicited by an Ad5-based vaccine.
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