Single-stranded RNA viruses of both positive and negative polarity have been used as vectors for vaccine development. In this context, alphaviruses, flaviviruses, measles virus and rhabdoviruses have been engineered for expression of surface protein genes and antigens. Administration of replicon RNA vectors has resulted in strong immune responses and generation of neutralizing antibodies in various animal models. Immunization of mice, chicken, pigs and primates with virus-like particles, naked RNA or layered DNA/RNA plasmids has provided protection against challenges with lethal doses of infectious agents and administered tumor cells. Both prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy has been achieved in cancer immunotherapy. Moreover, recombinant particles and replicon RNAs have been encapsulated by liposomes to improve delivery and targeting. Replicon RNA vectors have also been subjected to clinical trials. Overall, immunization with self-replicating RNA viruses provides high transient expression levels of antigens resulting in generation of neutralizing antibody responses and protection against lethal challenges under safe conditions.
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