Assessment of inactivated human rabies vaccines: Biochemical characterization and genetic identification of virus strains
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the periodic evaluation of the purity of the cell lines used in the production of rabies vaccines, as well as the antigenic identity of the virus strains. Here, we analyzed seventeen marketed inactivated human rabies virus vaccines for viral and non-viral proteins by SDS-PAGE and Coomassie/silver staining. Mass spectrometric analysis of an abundant 60-70 kDa signal indicated that in most vaccines serum albumin of human origin (HSA) was the major component. Quantification of HSA in the vaccines revealed a mean concentration of 22 mg HSA/dose in all tested PVRV (purified vero cell rabies vaccine), HDCV (human diploid cell rabies vaccine) and PHK (primary hamster kidney) vaccines. In contrast, 1000-fold lower HSA levels and no HSA were detected in PCECV (purified chick embryo cell-culture vaccine) and PDEV (duck embryo rabies vaccine), respectively. Western blot analyses further confirmed a high bias in the HSA content, whereas the virus protein levels were rather similar in all tested vaccines. In addition, the vaccine viruses were sequenced within the N- and G-genes to identify the strain. In the majority of sequenced vaccines, the declared vaccine strain was confirmed. However, some discrepancies in the genetic identification were observed, supporting WHO's recommendation for the molecular characterization of vaccine seed strains. This research highlights the variation in purity found between different human rabies virus vaccines, and suggests that further research is needed to establish the impact non-active components have on the potency of such vaccines.