Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) was used to follow dissemination of recombinant vaccinia virus (VACV) expressing luciferase (IHD-J-Luc) in BALB/c nu/nu mice treated post-challenge with monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against L1 and B5 VACV proteins in a model of Progressive Vaccinia (PV). Areas Under the flux Curve (AUC) were calculated for viral loads in multiple organs in individual mice. Following scarification with 105 pfu, IHD-J-Luc VACV undergoes fast replication at the injection site and disseminates rapidly to the inguinal lymph nodes followed by spleen, liver, and axillary lymph nodes within 2–3 days and before primary lesions are visible at the site of scarification. Extension of survival in nude mice treated with a combination of anti-B5 and anti-L1 MAbs 24 h post challenge correlated with a significant reduction in viral load at the site of scarification and delayed systemic dissemination. Nude mice reconstituted with 104 T cells prior to challenge with IHD-J-Luc, and treated with MAbs post-challenge, survived infection, cleared the virus from all organs and scarification site, and developed anti-VACV IgG and VACV-specific polyfunctional CD8+ T cells that co-expressed the degranulation marker CD107a, and IFNγ and TNFα cytokines. All T cell reconstituted mice survived intranasal re-challenge with IHD-J-Luc (104 pfu) two months after the primary infection. Thus, using BLI to monitor VACV replication in a PV model, we showed that anti-VACV MAbs administered post challenge extended survival of nude mice and protected T cell reconstituted nude mice from lethality by reducing replication at the site of scarification and systemic dissemination of VACV.
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