Investigation of an Adventitious Agent Test False Positive Signal in a Plant-Derived Influenza Vaccine

by Todd L. Talarico, Michael Murphy, Raymond Nims, Dan Hastings, Jeri Ann Boose, and Dave Dumers
Volume 17, Open Access (October 2018)

Medicago manufactures influenza vaccine virus-like particles (VLPs) in an unusual production platform consisting of Nicotiana benthamiana plants. During the in vitro adventitious agent test (AAT) of certain Medicago B strain influenza vaccine VLP test samples, positive hemagglutination of guinea pig red blood cells was observed on day 14, but not on day 28. The positive result in the assay was surprising because the production process uses no animal-derived raw materials and contains a viral inactivation step. Plant-associated viruses would not be expected to infect the mammalian cell-based assay. No cytopathic effects or hemadsorption of red blood cells was observed in these AATs. The positive hemagglutination was observed at 2–8°C, but not at 36–38 °C, and only in a few of the six detector cell lines used in the assay. Because this is quite an unusual pattern of responses for an AAT, Medicago and the contract testing lab, Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories (ELLI) investigated the positive responses thoroughly for the presence of an adventitious agent or an alternative explanation not involving a viral contaminant. Investigation results indicated that the hemagglutinating activity associated with the vaccine test sample itself was responsible for the positive hemagglutination response. The positive hemagglutination on day 14 of these AATs was deemed an assay artifact, and preventive actions were taken to prevent recurrence of this type of false positive response...

Talarico TL, Murphy M, Nims R, Hastings D, Boose JA, Dumers D. Investigation of an adventitious agent test false positive signal in a plant-derived influenza vaccine. BioProcess J, 2018; 17.

Posted online October 31, 2018.