Background: Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a ubiquitous herpesvirus affecting approximately 90% of the world population. HCMV causes disease in immunologically naive and immunosuppressed patients. The prevention, diagnosis and therapy of HCMV infection are thus crucial to public health. The availability of effective prophylactic and therapeutic treatments remain a significant challenge and no vaccine is currently available. Here, we sought to define an epitope-based vaccine against HCMV, eliciting B and T cell responses, from experimentally defined HCMV-specific epitopes. Results: We selected 398 and 790 experimentally validated HCMV-specific B and T cell epitopes, respectively, from available epitope resources and apply a knowledge-based approach in combination with immunoinformatic predictions to ensemble a universal vaccine against HCMV. The T cell component consists of 6 CD8 and 6 CD4 T cell epitopes that are conserved among HCMV strains. All CD8 T cell epitopes were reported to induce cytotoxic activity, are derived from early expressed genes and are predicted to provide population protection coverage over 97%. The CD4 T cell epitopes are derived from HCMV structural proteins and provide a population protection coverage over 92%. The B cell component consists of just 3 B cell epitopes from the ectodomain of glycoproteins L and H that are highly flexible and exposed to the solvent. Conclusions: We have defined a multiantigenic epitope vaccine ensemble against the HCMV that should elicit T and B cell responses in the entire population. Importantly, although we arrived to this epitope ensemble with the help of computational predictions, the actual epitopes are not predicted but are known to be immunogenic.
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