Effect of MMR Vaccination to Mitigate Severe Sequelae Associated With COVID-19: Challenges and Lessons Learned
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Mortality in COVID-19 cases was strongly associated with progressive lung inflammation and eventual sepsis. There is mounting evidence that live attenuated vaccines commonly administered during childhood, also provide beneficial non-specific immune effects, including reduced mortality and hospitalization due to unrelated infections. It has been proposed that live attenuated vaccine-associated non-specific effects are a result of inducing trained innate immunity to function more effectively against broader infections. In support of this, our laboratory has reported that immunization with a live attenuated fungal strain induces a novel form of trained innate immunity which provides protection against various inducers of sepsis in mice via myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Accordingly, we initiated a randomized control clinical trial with the live attenuated Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine in healthcare workers in the greater New Orleans area aimed at preventing/reducing severe lung inflammation/sepsis associated with COVID-19 (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04475081). Included was an outcome to evaluate the myeloid-derived suppressor cell populations in blood between those administered the MMR vaccine vs placebo. The unanticipated emergency approval of several COVID-19 vaccines in the midst of the MMR clinical trials eliminated the ability to examine effects of the MMR vaccine on COVID-19-related health status. Unfortunately, we were also unable to show any impact of the MMR vaccine on peripheral blood myeloid-derived suppressor cells due to several inherent limitations (low percentages of blood leukocytes, small sample size), that also included a collaboration with a similar trial (CROWN CORONATION; ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04333732) in St. Louis, MO. In contrast, monitoring the COVID-19 vaccine response in trial participants revealed that high COVID-19 antibody titers occurred more often in those who received the MMR vaccine vs placebo. While the trial was largely inconclusive, lessons learned from addressing several trialassociated challenges may aid future studies that test the non-specific beneficial immune effects of live attenuated vaccines.
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