Dominant cross-reactive B cell response during secondary acute dengue virus infection in humans.


The four serotypes of dengue virus (DENV) cause dengue fever (DF) and dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome (DHF/DSS). Severe disease has been associated with heterotypic secondary DENV infection, mediated by cross-reactive antibodies (Abs) and/or cross-reactive T cells. The role of cross-reactive immunity in mediating enhanced disease versus cross-protection against secondary heterotypic DENV infection is not well defined. A better understanding of the cross-reactive immune response in natural infections is critical for development of safe and effective tetravalent vaccines. We studied the B cell phenotype of circulating B cells in the blood of pediatric patients suspected of dengue during the 2010-2011 dengue season in Managua, Nicaragua (n  =  216), which was dominated by the DENV-3 serotype. We found a markedly larger percentage of plasmablast/plasma cells (PB/PCs) circulating in DENV-positive patients as compared to patients with Other Febrile Illnesses (OFIs). The percentage of DENV-specific PB/PCs against DENV-3 represented 10% of the circulating antibody-producing cells (ASCs) in secondary DENV-3 infections. Importantly, the cross-reactive DENV-specific B cell response was higher against a heterotypic serotype, with 46% of circulating PB/PCs specific to DENV-2 and 10% specific to DENV-3 during acute infection. We also observed a higher cross-reactive DENV-specific IgG serum avidity directed against DENV-2 as compared to DENV-3 during acute infection. The neutralization capacity of the serum was broadly cross-reactive against the four DENV serotypes both during the acute phase and at 3 months post-onset of symptoms. Overall, the cross-reactive B cell immune response dominates during secondary DENV infections in humans. These results reflect our recent findings in a mouse model of DENV cross-protection. In addition, this study enabled the development of increased technical and research capacity of Nicaraguan scientists and the implementation of several new immunological assays in the field.

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