Development and testing of recombinant B. abortus RB51 vaccine strains carrying M. tuberculosis protective antigens
Al Qublan, Hamzeh M.
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Tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases inflicting humankind. The World Health Organization estimates that one third of the world's population, approximately 2.2 billion people, is infected with TB with a mortality of 1.7 million people annually. Currently, the WHO estimates that each year more than 9 million people develop TB. Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), an attenuated strain of M. bovis, is the only licensed TB vaccine in the world. Clinical studies have shown childhood vaccination with BCG to be protective against disseminating and meningeal forms of TB. However, the efficacy of BCG against pulmonary TB in adults has been variable and inconsistent (0-80%). The objective of this study is to develop and test the efficacy of the B. abortus vaccine strain RB51 as a platform for expression of M. tuberculosis antigens (Ag85B, ESAT6 and Rv2660c) and induction of a protective immune response against M. tuberculosis and B. abortus challenge in mice. Here we report the construction of two recombinant strains of B. abortus vaccine strain RB51 capable of expressing mycobacterial antigens Ag85B, ESAT6 and Rv2660c. Our studies show that expression of mycobacterial antigens in strain RB51 lead to induction of antigen-specific immune responses characterized by secretion of IgG2a antibodies as well as of IFN- and TNF-α. Mice immunized with a combination of two strains of RB51 in equal numbers, one carrying Rv2660c-ESAT6 and another carrying Ag85B, led to a 0.90 log reduction in CFU burden with significance nearly reaching borderline (p = 0.052). However, when mice were primed with the same strains of RB51 and boosted with proteins Ag85B and ESAT6, a significant level of protection (1 log reduction) compared to the PBS vaccinated group was achieved. The protection levels conferred by this vaccination strategy was similar to that conferred by BCG vaccine. In conclusion, we have shown that recombinant RB51 strains expressing mycobacterial protective antigens result in stimulation of antigen specific immune response without altering the vaccine efficacy in protecting against the more virulent strain of B. abortus 2308. These recombinant vaccines could potentially be used to protect against M. tuberculosis infection.