Zika virus (ZIKV), which can cause devastating disease in fetuses of infected pregnant women, can be transmitted by mosquito inoculation and sexual routes. Little is known about immune protection against sexually transmitted ZIKV. In this study, we show that previous infection through intravaginal or subcutaneous routes with a contemporary Brazilian strain of ZIKV can protect against subsequent intravaginal challenge with a homologous strain. Both routes of inoculation induced high titers of ZIKV-specific and neutralizing antibody in serum and the vaginal lumen. Virus-specific T cells were recruited to and retained in the female reproductive tract after intravaginal and subcutaneous ZIKV infection. Studies in mice with genetic or acquired deficiencies in B and/or T cells demonstrated that both lymphocyte populations redundantly protect against intravaginal challenge in ZIKV-immune animals. Passive transfer of ZIKV-immune IgG or T cells significantly limited intravaginal infection of naive mice, although antibody more effectively prevented dissemination throughout the reproductive tract. Collectively, our experiments begin to establish the immune correlates of protection against intravaginal ZIKV infection, which should inform vaccination strategies in nonpregnant and pregnant women.
- Sexual transmission
- Zika virus