Infection with wild-type measles virus (MeV) induces lifelong protection from reinfection, and parenteral delivery of the live attenuated measles vaccine (LAV) also provides protection from measles. The level of neutralizing antibody is a good indicator of protection, but the independent roles of MeV-specific antibody and T cells have not been identified. In this study, macaques immunized with LAV through a nebulizer and a mouthpiece developed MeV-specific T-cell responses but not neutralizing antibodies. Upon challenge with wild-type MeV, these animals developed rashes and viremias similar to those in naive animals but cleared viral RNA from blood 25 to 40 days faster. The nebulizer-immunized animals also had more robust MeV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses than the naive animals after challenge, characterized by a higher number and better durability of gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing cells. Induction of MeV-specific circulating CD4+ and CD8+ T cells capable of producing multiple cytokines correlated with clearance of viral RNA in the nebulizer-immunized macaques. These studies demonstrated that MeV-specific T-cell immunity alone did not prevent measles, but T-cell priming enhanced the magnitude, durability, and polyfunctionality of MeV-specific T cells after challenge infection and correlated with more rapid clearance of MeV RNA.
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