Universal influenza vaccines should protect against continuously evolving and newly emerging influenza viruses. T cells may be an essential target of such vaccines, as they can clear infected cells through recognition of conserved influenza virus epitopes. We evaluated a novel T cell–inducing nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine that encodes the conserved nucleoprotein, matrix protein 1, and polymerase basic protein 1 of an H1N1 influenza virus. To mimic the human situation, we applied the mRNA vaccine as a prime-boost regimen in naïve ferrets (mimicking young children) and as a booster in influenza-experienced ferrets (mimicking adults). The vaccine induced and boosted broadly reactive T cells in the circulation, bone marrow, and respiratory tract. Booster vaccination enhanced protection against heterosubtypic infection with a potential pandemic H7N9 influenza virus in influenza-experienced ferrets. Our findings show that mRNA vaccines encoding internal influenza virus proteins represent a promising strategy to induce broadly protective T cell immunity against influenza viruses.

14 Dec 2022