Research Article: Immunogenicity of Simulated PCECV Postexposure Booster Doses 1, 3, and 5 Years after 2-Dose and 3-Dose Primary Rabies Vaccination in Schoolchildren

Date Published: July 7, 2011

Publisher: SAGE-Hindawi Access to Research

Author(s): Thavatchai Kamoltham, Wiravan Thinyounyong, Pakamatz Khawplod, Phran Phraisuwan, Phana Phongchamnaphai, Gerlind Anders, Claudius Malerczyk.


To assess the immunogenicity of intradermal (ID) booster doses of Purified Chick Embryo Cell rabies vaccine (PCECV, Rabipur) administered to Thai schoolchildren one, three and five years after a primary ID pre-exposure (PrEP) vaccination series.
In this follow-up study of a randomized, open-label, phase II clinical trial, two simulated post-exposure booster doses of PCECV were administered on days 0 and 3 intradermally to 703 healthy schoolchildren, one, three or five years after primary vaccination with either two or three ID doses of 0.1 mL PCECV. Blood was drawn immediately before and 7, 14 and 365 days after the first booster dose to determine rabies virus neutralizing antibody (RVNA) concentrations.
An anamnestic response of approximately 30-fold increase in RVNA concentrations was demonstrated within 14 days after booster. All children (100%) developed adequate RVNA concentrations above 0.5 IU/mL. No vaccine related serious adverse events were seen in any of the vaccinees.
ID rabies PrEP with PCECV is safe and immunogenic in schoolchildren and the anamnestic response to a two booster dose vaccination series was found to be adequate one, three, and five years after a two- or three-dose primary PrEP vaccination series.

Partial Text

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) after an exposure to a rabid animal has been demonstrated to be efficacious using tissue culture vaccines (TCV) including purified chick embryo cell vaccine (PCECV), administered either intramuscularly (IM) or intradermally (ID) [1, 2]. However, human rabies remains a significant health problem in countries of Asia and Africa, where more than 99% of the exposures come from rabies-infected dogs that inhabit rural and urban areas. The vast majority of the estimated 55,000 human deaths that occur worldwide every year occur on these two continents [3, 4], mainly due to lack of awareness that results in delayed, inadequate PEP, or even no PEP administered to patients exposed to rabid animals. A significant number of bite exposures and rabies cases occur in children under 15 years of age [5–8]. It has been reported that in Thailand by the age of 15 years approximately one-third of all children will have experienced a dog bite, indicating the potential risk for children to be exposed to a rabid animal [9]. While PEP clearly saves lives, human rabies cases, especially in children, continue to occur despite the availability of vaccines and biologicals. Almost all of these human rabies cases could have been prevented, and almost all occurred due to a lack of receiving PEP. One possible alternative to making sure that every child received adequate PEP after exposure is to administer pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to those living in high-risk regions. The use of PrEP in children living in areas of high risk of exposure to rabies would reduce the number of vaccine booster doses required and eliminate the need to administer rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) after an exposure has occurred. For example, persons that have been vaccinated previously with a tissue culture rabies vaccine and are subsequently exposed to a rabid animal only require two booster doses of vaccine, administered on days 0 and 3, either IM or ID [4]. Previous reports have demonstrated that PCECV is immunogenic and safe when given intradermally [10–12]. Recent studies from Thailand and India revealed that the current WHO PrEP recommendations of three IM or ID doses are adequate in schoolchildren [13, 14] and toddlers [15]. A study using PCECV in toddlers administered concomitantly with Japanese encephalitis vaccine (JEV) demonstrated adequate tolerability and immunogenicity of both vaccines and indicated the suitability of introducing rabies vaccine into the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) schedule. In addition, a study with purified verocell rabies vaccine (PVRV) was conducted in infants, indicating adequate immune responses when rabies vaccine was administered concomitantly with pediatric routine combination vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, whole cell pertussis, inactivated poliomyelitis; DTP-IPV) [16]. However, when infant or pre-school rabies vaccinations are missed, vaccination in early school-age children could be a practical and efficient solution to protect this most vulnerable population against rabies. In this study we investigated whether two or three ID doses of PCECV would be immunogenic in children and concluded that the current recommendation of three doses given ID is appropriate [13]. The study population, clinical trial design, and results of the primary vaccination have been published earlier [13].

One year after the primary vaccination, RVNA concentrations had decreased (Figure 2(a)) with 7% and 35% of the vaccinees still having adequate RVNA concentrations above 0.5 IU/mL, in the 2-dose and 3-dose group, respectively, (Table 1). This percentage of subjects with adequate RVNA concentrations did not change significantly over time (Figures 2(b) and 2(c)); 8% and 40% of subjects in the 3-year group and 12% and 46% of subjects in the 5-year group, respectively, maintained adequate RVNA concentrations (Table 1). After receiving two booster doses of PCECV, on day 0 and day 3, RVNA concentrations increased significantly in all study groups, thus eliciting adequate RVNA concentrations on day 7 postbooster in 100%, 97%, and 99% of the children in the 3-dose groups, and 96%, 73%, and 91% of the children in the 2-dose group, at one, three, and five years after primary vaccination, respectively. By day 14, every child (100%) had reached adequate RVNA concentrations, regardless of the time interval between primary vaccination and booster or whether having received two or three primary doses (Table 1). Thus the objective was met to demonstrate long-term postbooster RVNA protection, defined as RFFIT antibody concentrations ≥0.5 IU/mL, 1, 3, and 5 years after the primary vaccination, as well as to demonstrate that adequate RVNA concentrations are achieved in all subjects. Fourteen days after booster, the 2-dose regimen proved equivalent to the 3-dose regimen in eliciting adequate response (100% adequate RVNA concentrations in all groups), while on day 7 after booster, the percentage was lower in the 2-dose group. When comparing actual RVNA concentrations, GMCs were about 3-fold higher in the 3-dose group than in the 2-dose group. This difference was seen throughout the study (Figure 2).

When a person has been previously immunized with a PrEP series of three doses of rabies vaccine, the current recommendations for PEP include the administration of two booster doses of a WHO-recommended tissue culture vaccine. It is neither necessary nor recommended to administer RIG to individuals that have received a tissue culture vaccine previously. The question as to whether the time interval between primary vaccination series and the PEP booster series following an exposure has an influence on the ability of a patient to elicit an anamnestic response is an important concern for public health officials that may be considering the use of PrEP to protect populations living in areas with a high risk of exposure to rabies. In this study we investigated the anamnestic response in subjects that had received a two booster dose series of PEP one, three, and five years after the primary PrEP immunization, and we have confirmed that an adequate and rapid immune response occurred in all subjects.

While the current recommendation of PrEP vaccination consists of three doses of rabies vaccine administered ID or IM [4], a PrEP vaccination series using two or three doses of 0.1 mL PCECV administered ID is safe and immunogenic in school children, and anamnestic responses occurred in all subjects after two booster doses were administered up to five years later. This indicates that when an exposure occurs, two booster doses of vaccine administered ID three days apart may be appropriate in previously immunized persons that may have received only two initial doses of a PrEP series although three initial doses lead to higher immune responses and longer lasting protection. Reduced PrEP regimens would reduce the cost of protecting vulnerable populations against rabies and would promote better compliance, thus supporting opportunities to conduct mass PrEP rabies vaccination in children, the population most at risk of dying of this dreaded disease.




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