Antimicrobials administered postexposure can reduce the incidence or progression of anthrax disease, but they do not protect against the disease resulting from the germination of spores that may remain in the body after cessation of the antimicrobial regimen. Such additional protection may be achieved by postexposure vaccination; however, no anthrax vaccine is licensed for postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). In a rabbit PEP study, animals were subjected to lethal challenge with aerosolized Bacillus anthracis spores and then were treated with levofloxacin with or without concomitant intramuscular (i.m.) vaccination with anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) (BioThrax; Emergent BioDefense Operations Lansing LLC, Lansing, MI), administered twice, 1 week apart. A significant increase in survival rates was observed among vaccinated animals compared to those treated with antibiotic alone. In preexposure prophylaxis studies in rabbits and nonhuman primates (NHPs), animals received two i.m. vaccinations 1 month apart and were challenged with aerosolized anthrax spores at day 70. Prechallenge toxin-neutralizing antibody (TNA) titers correlated with animal survival postchallenge and provided the means for deriving an antibody titer associated with a specific probability of survival in animals. In a clinical immunogenicity study, 82% of the subjects met or exceeded the prechallenge TNA value that was associated with a 70% probability of survival in rabbits and 88% probability of survival in NHPs, which was estimated based on the results of animal preexposure prophylaxis studies. The animal data provide initial information on protective antibody levels for anthrax, as well as support previous findings regarding the ability of AVA to provide added protection to B. anthracis-infected animals compared to antimicrobial treatment alone.
Inhalation anthrax is a potentially lethal form of disease resulting from exposure to aerosolized Bacillus anthracis spores. Over the last decade, incidents spanning from the deliberate mailing of B. anthracis spores to incidental exposures in users of illegal drugs have highlighted the importance of developing new medical countermeasures to protect people who have been exposed to “anthrax spores” and are at risk of developing disease. The New Zealand White rabbit (NZWR) is a well-characterized model that has a pathogenesis and clinical presentation similar to those seen in humans. This article reports how the NZWR model was adapted to evaluate postexposure prophylaxis using a recombinant protective antigen (rPA) vaccine in combination with an oral antibiotic, levofloxacin. NZWRs were exposed to multiples of the 50% lethal dose (LD50) of B. anthracis spores and then vaccinated immediately (day 0) and again on day 7 postexposure. Levofloxacin was administered daily beginning at 6 to 12 h postexposure for 7 treatments. Rabbits were evaluated for clinical signs of disease, fever, bacteremia, immune response, and survival. A robust immune response (IgG anti-rPA and toxin-neutralizing antibodies) was observed in all vaccinated groups on days 10 to 12. Levofloxacin plus either 30 or 100 μg rPA vaccine resulted in a 100% survival rate (18 of 18 per group), and a vaccine dose as low as 10 μg rPA resulted in an 89% survival rate (16 of 18) when used in combination with levofloxacin. In NZWRs that received antibiotic alone, the survival rate was 56% (10 of 18). There was no adverse effect on the development of a specific IgG response to rPA in unchallenged NZWRs that received the combination treatment of vaccine plus antibiotic. This study demonstrated that an accelerated two-dose regimen of rPA vaccine coadministered on days 0 and 7 with 7 days of levofloxacin therapy results in a significantly greater survival rate than with antibiotic treatment alone. Combination of vaccine administration and antibiotic treatment may be an effective strategy for treating a population exposed to aerosolized B. anthracis spores.
After inhalational anthrax was diagnosed in a Connecticut woman on November 20, 2001, postexposure prophylaxis was recommended for postal workers at the regional mail facility serving the patient’s area. Although environmental testing at the facility yielded negative results, subsequent testing confirmed the presence of Bacillus anthracis. We distributed questionnaires to 100 randomly selected postal workers within 20 days of initial prophylaxis. Ninety-four workers obtained antibiotics, 68 of whom started postexposure prophylaxis and 21 discontinued. Postal workers who stopped or never started taking prophylaxis cited as reasons disbelief regarding anthrax exposure, problems with adverse events, and initial reports of negative cultures. Postal workers with adverse events reported predominant symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and headache. The influence of these concerns on adherence suggests that communication about risks of acquiring anthrax, education about adverse events, and careful management of adverse events are essential elements in increasing adherence.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; prophylaxis; adverse effects; ciprofloxacin; doxycycline; patient noncompliance; Connecticut
The unpredictable nature of bioterrorism and the absence of real-time detection systems have highlighted the need for an efficient postexposure therapy for Bacillus anthracis infection. One approach is passive immunization through the administration of antibodies that mitigate the biological action of anthrax toxin. We isolated and characterized two protective fully human monoclonal antibodies with specificity for protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF). These antibodies, designated IQNPA (anti-PA) and IQNLF (anti-LF), were developed as hybridomas from individuals immunized with licensed anthrax vaccine. The effective concentration of IQNPA that neutralized 50% of the toxin in anthrax toxin neutralization assays was 0.3 nM, while 0.1 nM IQNLF neutralized the same amount of toxin. When combined, the antibodies had additive neutralization efficacy. IQNPA binds to domain IV of PA containing the host cell receptor binding site, while IQNLF recognizes domain I containing the PA binding region in LF. A single 180-μg dose of either antibody given to A/J mice 2.5 h before challenge conferred 100% protection against a lethal intraperitoneal spore challenge with 24 50% lethal doses [LD50s] of B. anthracis Sterne and against rechallenge on day 20 with a more aggressive challenge dose of 41 LD50s. Mice treated with either antibody and infected with B. anthracis Sterne developed detectable murine anti-PA and anti-LF immunoglobulin G antibody responses by day 17 that were dependent on which antibody the mice had received. Based on these results, IQNPA and IQNLF act independently during prophylactic anthrax treatment and do not interfere with the establishment of endogenous immunity.
We collected data during postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis campaigns and from a prophylaxis program evaluation 60 days after start of antimicrobial prophylaxis involving persons from six U.S. sites where Bacillus anthracis exposures occurred. Adverse events associated with antimicrobial prophylaxis to prevent anthrax were commonly reported, but hospitalizations and serious adverse events as defined by Food and Drug Administration criteria were rare. Overall adherence during 60 days of antimicrobial prophylaxis was poor (44%), ranging from 21% of persons exposed in the Morgan postal facility in New York City to 64% of persons exposed at the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C. Adherence was highest among participants in an investigational new drug protocol to receive additional antibiotics with or without anthrax vaccine—a likely surrogate for anthrax risk perception. Adherence of <60 days was not consistently associated with adverse events.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; antimicrobial prophylaxis; adverse events; adherence
The successful use of Bacillus anthracis as a lethal biological weapon has prompted renewed research interest in the development of more effective vaccines against anthrax. The disease consists of three critical components: spore, bacillus, and toxin, elimination of any of which confers at least partial protection against anthrax. Current remedies rely on postexposure antibiotics to eliminate bacilli and pre- and postexposure vaccination to target primarily toxins. Vaccines effective against toxin have been licensed for human use, but need improvement. Vaccines against bacilli have recently been developed by us and others. Whether effective vaccines will be developed against spores is still an open question. An ideal vaccine would confer simultaneous protection against spores, bacilli, and toxins. One step towards this goal is our dually active vaccine, designed to destroy both bacilli and toxin. Existing and potential strategies towards potent and effective anthrax vaccines are discussed in this review.
We used unpublished reports, published manuscripts, and communication with investigators to identify and summarize 49 anthrax-related epidemiologic field investigations conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1950 to August 2001. Of 41 investigations in which Bacillus anthracis caused human or animal disease, 24 were in agricultural settings, 11 in textile mills, and 6 in other settings. Among the other investigations, two focused on building decontamination, one was a response to bioterrorism threats, and five involved other causes. Knowledge gained in these investigations helped guide the public health response to the October 2001 intentional release of B. anthracis, especially by addressing the management of anthrax threats, prevention of occupational anthrax, use of antibiotic prophylaxis in exposed persons, use of vaccination, spread of B. anthracis spores in aerosols, clinical diagnostic and laboratory confirmation methods, techniques for environmental sampling of exposed surfaces, and methods for decontaminating buildings.
anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; bacterial infections; disease outbreaks; public health; bioterrorism; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.); historical article (publication type); zoonoses
The inhaled form of Bacillus anthracis infection may be fatal to humans. The current standard of care for inhalational anthrax postexposure prophylaxis is ciprofloxacin therapy twice daily for 60 days. The potent in vitro activity of oritavancin, a semisynthetic lipoglycopeptide, against B. anthracis (MIC against Ames strain, 0.015 μg/ml) prompted us to test its efficacy in a mouse aerosol-anthrax model. In postexposure prophylaxis dose-ranging studies, a single intravenous (i.v.) dose of oritavancin of 5, 15, or 50 mg/kg 24 h after a challenge with 50 to 75 times the median lethal dose of Ames strain spores provided 40, 70, and 100% proportional survival, respectively, at 30 days postchallenge. Untreated animals died within 4 days of challenge, whereas 90% of control animals receiving ciprofloxacin at 30 mg/kg intraperitoneally twice daily for 14 days starting 24 h after challenge survived. Oritavancin demonstrated significant activity post symptom development; a single i.v. dose of 50 mg/kg administered 42 h after challenge provided 56% proportional survival at 30 days. In a preexposure prophylaxis study, a single i.v. oritavancin dose of 50 mg/kg administered 1, 7, 14, or 28 days before lethal challenge protected 90, 100, 100, and 20% of mice at 30 days; mice treated with ciprofloxacin 24 h or 24 and 12 h before challenge all died within 5 days. Efficacy in pre- and postexposure models of inhalation anthrax, together with a demonstrated low propensity to engender resistance, promotes further study of oritavancin pharmacokinetics and efficacy in nonhuman primate models.
Respiratory anthrax, in the absence of early antibiotic treatment, is a fatal disease. This study aimed to test the efficiency of antibiotic therapy in curing infected animals and those sick with anthrax. Postexposure prophylaxis (24 h postinfection [p.i.]) of guinea pigs infected intranasally with Bacillus anthracis Vollum spores with doxycycline, ofloxacin, imipenem, and gentamicin conferred protection. However, upon termination of treatment, the animals died from respiratory anthrax. Combined treatment with antibiotics and active vaccination with a protective antigen-based vaccine leads to full protection even after cessation of treatment. Delaying the initiation of antibiotic administration to over 24 h p.i. resulted in treatment of animals with anthrax exhibiting various degrees of bacteremia and toxemia. Treatment with doxycycline or ciprofloxacin cured sick guinea pigs and rabbits exhibiting bacteremia levels up to 105 CFU/ml. Addition of anti-protective antigen (PA) antibodies augmented the efficiency of protection, allowing the cure of guinea pigs and rabbits with 10- to 20-fold-higher bacteremia levels, up to 7 × 105 CFU/ml and 2 × 106 CFU/ml, respectively. Treatment with ciprofloxacin and a monoclonal anti-PA antibody rescued rabbits with bacteremia levels up to 4 × 106 CFU/ml. During antibiotic administration, all surviving animals developed a protective immune response against development of a fatal disease and subcutaneous challenge with Vollum spores. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that antibiotic treatment can prevent the development of fatal disease in respiratory-anthrax-infected animals and can cure animals after disease establishment. A therapeutic time window of 40 h to 48 h from infection to initiation of efficient antibiotic-mediated cure was observed.
In October 2001, two envelopes containing Bacillus anthracis spores were processed at the Washington, D.C., Processing and Distribution Center of the U.S. Postal Service; inhalational anthrax developed in four workers at this facility. More than 2,000 workers were advised to complete 60 days of postexposure prophylaxis to prevent inhalational anthrax. Interventions to promote adherence were carried out to support workers, and qualitative information was collected to evaluate our interventions. A quantitative survey was administered to a convenience sample of workers to assess factors influencing adherence. No anthrax infections developed in any workers involved in the interventions or interviews. Of 245 workers, 98 (40%) reported full adherence to prophylaxis, and 45 (18%) had completely discontinued it. Experiencing adverse effects to prophylaxis, anxiety, and being <45 years old were risk factors for discontinuing prophylaxis. Interventions, especially frequent visits by public health staff, proved effective in supporting adherence.
adherence; Bacillus anthracis; bioterrorism; antimicrobial prophylaxis; compliance
In October 2001, four cases of inhalational anthrax occurred in workers in a Washington, D.C., mail facility that processed envelopes containing Bacillus anthracis spores. We reviewed the envelopes’ paths and obtained exposure histories and nasal swab cultures from postal workers. Environmental sampling was performed. A sample of employees was assessed for antibody concentrations to B. anthracis protective antigen. Case-patients worked on nonoverlapping shifts throughout the facility. Environmental sampling showed diffuse contamination of the facility, suggesting multiple aerosolization events. Potential workplace exposures were similar for the case-patients and the sample of workers. All nasal swab cultures and serum antibody tests were negative. Available tools could not identify subgroups of employees at higher risk for exposure or disease. Prophylaxis was necessary for all employees. To protect postal workers against bioterrorism, measures to reduce the risk of occupational exposure are necessary.
bioterrorism; Bacillus anthracis; postal facility; inhalational anthrax
The Bacillus anthracis exosporium protein BclA contains an O-linked antigenic tetrasaccharide whose terminal sugar is known as anthrose (J. M. Daubenspeck et al., J. Biol. Chem. 279:30945–30953, 2004). We hypothesized that serologic responses to anthrose may have diagnostic value in confirming exposure to aerosolized B. anthracis. We evaluated the serologic responses to a synthetic anthrose-containing trisaccharide (ATS) in a group of five rhesus macaques that survived inhalation anthrax following exposure to B. anthracis Ames spores. Two of five animals (RM2 and RM3) were treated with ciprofloxacin starting at 48 hours postexposure and two (RM4 and RM5) at 72 h postexposure; one animal (RM1) was untreated. Infection was confirmed by blood culture and detection of anthrax toxin lethal factor (LF) in plasma. Anti-ATS IgG responses were determined at 14, 21, 28, and 35 days postexposure, with preexposure serum as a control. All animals, irrespective of ciprofloxacin treatment, mounted a specific, measurable anti-ATS IgG response. The earliest detectable responses were on days 14 (RM1, RM2, and RM5), 21 (RM4), and 28 (RM3). Specificity of the anti-ATS responses was demonstrated by competitive-inhibition enzyme immunoassay (CIEIA), in which a 2-fold (wt/wt) excess of carbohydrate in a bovine serum albumin (BSA) conjugate of the oligosaccharide (ATS-BSA) effected >94% inhibition, whereas a structural analog lacking the 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-butyryl moiety at the C-4" of the anthrosyl residue had no inhibition activity. These data suggest that anti-ATS antibody responses may be used to identify aerosol exposure to B. anthracis spores. The anti-ATS antibody responses were detectable during administration of ciprofloxacin.
Anthrax toxins significantly contribute to anthrax disease pathogenesis, and mechanisms by which the toxins affect host cellular responses have been identified with purified toxins. However, the contribution of anthrax toxin proteins to dissemination, disease progression, and subsequent immunity after aerosol infection with spores has not been clearly elucidated. To better understand the role of anthrax toxins in pathogenesis in vivo and to investigate the contribution of antibody to toxin proteins in protection, we completed a series of in vivo experiments using a murine aerosol challenge model and a collection of in-frame deletion mutants lacking toxin components. Our data show that after aerosol exposure to Bacillus anthracis spores, anthrax lethal toxin was required for outgrowth of bacilli in the draining lymph nodes and subsequent progression of infection beyond the lymph nodes to establish disseminated disease. After pulmonary exposure to anthrax spores, toxin expression was required for the development of protective immunity to a subsequent lethal challenge. However, immunoglobulin (immunoglobulin G) titers to toxin proteins, prior to secondary challenge, did not correlate with the protection observed upon secondary challenge with wild-type spores. A correlation was observed between survival after secondary challenge and rapid anamnestic responses directed against toxin proteins. Taken together, these studies indicate that anthrax toxins are required for dissemination of bacteria beyond the draining lymphoid tissue, leading to full virulence in the mouse aerosol challenge model, and that primary and anamnestic immune responses to toxin proteins provide protection against subsequent lethal challenge. These results provide support for the utility of the mouse aerosol challenge model for the study of inhalational anthrax.
The protective effects of polyclonal antisera produced by injecting guinea pigs with protective antigen (PA), the chemical anthrax vaccine AVA, or Sterne spore vaccine, as well as those of toxin-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) produced against PA, lethal factor, and edema factor, were examined in animals infected with Bacillus anthracis spores. Only the anti-PA polyclonal serum significantly protected the guinea pigs from death, with 67% of infected animals surviving. Although none of the MAbs was protective, one PA MAb caused a significant delay in time to death. Our findings demonstrate that antibodies produced against only PA can provide passive protection against anthrax infection in guinea pigs.
Bacillus anthracis remains a serious bioterrorism concern, and the currently licensed vaccine remains an incomplete solution for population protection from inhalation anthrax and has been associated with concerns regarding efficacy and safety. Thus, understanding how to generate long lasting protective immunity with reduced immunizations or providing protection through post exposure immunotherapeutics are long sought goals. Through evaluation of a large military cohort, we characterized the levels of antibodies against protective antigen and found that over half of anthrax vaccinees had low levels of in vitro toxin neutralization capacity in their sera. Using solid phase epitope mapping and confirmatory assays, we identified several neutralization-associated humoral epitopes and demonstrated that select anti-peptide responses mediated protection in vitro. Finally, passively transferred antibodies specific for select epitopes provided protection in an in vivo lethal toxin mouse model. Identification of these antigenic regions has important implications for vaccine design and the development of directed immunotherapeutics.
anthrax; vaccination; antibodies; protective antigen
Anthrax is a human disease that results from infection by the bacteria, Bacillus anthracis and has recently been used as a bioterrorist agent. Historically, this disease was associated with Bacillus spore exposure from wool or animal carcasses. While current vaccine approaches (targeted against the protective antigen) are effective for prophylaxis, multiple doses must be injected. Common antibiotics that block the germination process are effective but must be administered early in the infection cycle. In addition, new therapeutics are needed to specifically target the proteolytic activity of lethal factor (LF) associated with this bacterial infection.
Using a fluorescence-based assay to identify and characterize inhibitors of anthrax lethal factor protease activity, we identified several chemically-distinct classes of inhibitory molecules including polyamines, aminoglycosides and cationic peptides. In these studies, spermine was demonstrated for the first time to inhibit anthrax LF with a Ki value of 0.9 ± 0.09 μM (mean ± SEM; n = 3). Additional linear polyamines were also active as LF inhibitors with lower potencies.
Based upon the studies reported herein, we chose linear polyamines related to spermine as potential lead optimization candidates and additional testing in cell-based models where cell penetration could be studied. During our screening process, we reproducibly demonstrated that the potencies of certain compounds, including neomycin but not neamine or spermine, were different depending upon the presence or absence of nucleic acids. Differential sensitivity to the presence/absence of nucleic acids may be an additional point to consider when comparing various classes of active compounds for lead optimization.
We have developed a therapeutic for the treatment of anthrax using an affinity-enhanced monoclonal antibody (ETI-204) to protective antigen (PA), which is the central cell-binding component of the anthrax exotoxins. ETI-204 administered preexposure by a single intravenous injection of a dose of between 2.5 and 10 mg per animal significantly protected rabbits from a lethal aerosolized anthrax spore challenge (∼60 to 450 times the 50% lethal dose of Bacillus anthracis Ames). Against a similar challenge, ETI-204 administered intramuscularly at a 20-mg dose per animal completely protected rabbits from death (100% survival). In the postexposure setting, intravenous administration of ETI-204 provided protection 24 h (8 of 10) and 36 h (5 of 10) after spore challenge. Administration at 48 h postchallenge, when 3 of 10 animals had already succumbed to anthrax infection, resulted in the survival of 3 of 7 animals (43%) for the duration of the study (28 days). Importantly, surviving ETI-204-treated animals were free of bacteremia by day 10 and remained so until the end of the studies. Only 11 of 51 ETI-204-treated rabbits had positive lung cultures at the end of the studies. Also, rabbits that were protected from inhalational anthrax by administration of ETI-204 developed significant titers of PA-specific antibodies. Presently, the sole therapeutic regimen available to treat infection by inhalation of B. anthracis spores is a 60-day course of antibiotics that is effective only if administered prior to or shortly after exposure. Based upon results reported here, ETI-204 is an effective therapy for prevention and treatment of inhalational anthrax.
A less than adequate therapeutic plan for the treatment of anthrax in the 2001 bioterrorism attacks has highlighted the importance of developing alternative or complementary therapeutic approaches for biothreat agents. In these regards passive immunization possesses several important advantages over active vaccination and the use of antibiotics, as it can provide immediate protection against Bacillus anthracis. Herein, we report the selection and characterization of several human monoclonal neutralizing antibodies against the toxin of B. anthracis from a phage displayed human scFv library. In total fifteen clones were selected with distinct sequences and high specificity to protective antigen and thus were the subject of a series of both biophysical and cell-based cytotoxicity assays. From this panel of antibodies a set of neutralizing antibodies were identified, of which clone A8 recognizes the lethal (and/or edema) factor binding domain, and clone F1, G11 and G12 recognize the cellular receptor binding domain within protective antigen. It was noted that all clones distinguish a conformational epitope existing on the protective antigen; this steric relationship was uncovered using a sequential epitope mapping approach. For each neutralizing antibody, the kinetic constants were determined by surface plasmon resonance, while the potency of protection was established using a two-tier macrophage cytotoxicity assay. Among the neutralizing antibodies identified, clone F1 possessed the highest affinity to protective antigen, and provided superior protection from lethal toxin in the cell cytotoxicity assay. The data presented provides to the ever-growing arsenal of immunological and functional analysis of monoclonal antibodies to the exotoxins of anthrax. In addition it grants new candidates for the prophylaxis and therapeutic treatment against this toxin.
Bacillus anthracis; protective antigen; human monoclonal antibodies; neutralizing antibodies; phage antibody library
Prevention of inhalation anthrax requires early and extended antibiotic therapy, and therefore, alternative treatment strategies are needed. We investigated whether a human monoclonal antibody (AVP-21D9) to protective antigen (PA) would protect mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits against anthrax. Control animals challenged with Bacillus anthracis Ames spores by the intranasal route died within 3 to 7 days. AVP-21D9 alone provided minimal protection against anthrax in the murine model, but its efficacy was notably better in guinea pigs. When Swiss-Webster mice, challenged with five 50% lethal doses (LD50s) of anthrax spores, were given a single 16.7-mg/kg of body weight AVP-21D9 antibody dose combined with ciprofloxacin (30 mg/kg/day for 6 days) 24 h after challenge, 100% of the mice were protected for more than 30 days, while ciprofloxacin or AVP-21D9 alone showed minimal protection. Similarly, when AVP-21D9 antibody (10 to 50 mg/kg) was combined with a low, nonprotective dose of ciprofloxacin (3.7 mg/kg/day) and administered to guinea pigs for 6 days, synergistic protection against anthrax was observed. In contrast, a single dose of AVP-21D9 antibody (1, 5, 10, or 20 mg/kg) but not 0.2 mg/kg alone completely protected rabbits against challenge with 100 LD50s of B. anthracis Ames spores, and 100% of the rabbits survived rechallenge. Further, administration of AVP-21D9 (10 mg/kg) to rabbits at 0, 6, and 12 h after challenge with anthrax spores resulted in 100% survival; however, delay of antibody treatment by 24 and 48 h reduced survival to 80% and 60%, respectively. Serological analysis of sera from various surviving animals 30 days postprimary infection showed development of a species-specific PA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay antibody titer that correlated with protection against reinfection. Taken together, the effectiveness of human anti-PA antibody alone or in combination with low ciprofloxacin levels may provide the basis for an improved strategy for prophylaxis or treatment following inhalation anthrax infection.
Protective antigen (PA)-based anthrax vaccines acting on toxins are less effective than live attenuated vaccines, suggesting that additional antigens may contribute to protective immunity. Several reports indicate that capsule or spore-associated antigens may enhance the protection afforded by PA. Addition of formaldehyde-inactivated spores (FIS) to PA (PA-FIS) elicits total protection against cutaneous anthrax. Nevertheless, vaccines that are effective against cutaneous anthrax may not be so against inhalational anthrax. The aim of this work was to optimize immunization with PA-FIS and to assess vaccine efficacy against inhalational anthrax. We assessed the immune response to recombinant anthrax PA from Bacillus anthracis (rPA)-FIS administered by various immunization protocols and the protection provided to mice and guinea pigs infected through the respiratory route with spores of a virulent strain of B. anthracis. Combined subcutaneous plus intranasal immunization of mice yielded a mucosal immunoglobulin G response to rPA that was more than 20 times higher than that in lung mucosal secretions after subcutaneous vaccination. The titers of toxin-neutralizing antibody and antispore antibody were also significantly higher: nine and eight times higher, respectively. The optimized immunization elicited total protection of mice intranasally infected with the virulent B. anthracis strain 17JB. Guinea pigs were fully protected, both against an intranasal challenge with 100 50% lethal doses (LD50) and against an aerosol with 75 LD50 of spores of the highly virulent strain 9602. Conversely, immunization with PA alone did not elicit protection. These results demonstrate that the association of PA and spores is very much more effective than PA alone against experimental inhalational anthrax.
Protective antigen (PA) is the cell surface recognition unit of the binary anthrax toxin system and the primary immunogenic component in both the current and proposed “next-generation” anthrax vaccines. Several studies utilizing animal models have indicated that PA-specific antibodies, acquired by either active or passive immunization, are sufficient to protect against infection with Bacillus anthracis. To investigate the human antibody response to anthrax immunization, we have established a large panel of human PA-specific monoclonal antibodies derived from multiple individuals vaccinated with the currently approved anthrax vaccine BioThrax. We have determined that although these antibodies bind PA in standard binding assays such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, Western blotting, capture assays, and dot blots, less than 25% are capable of neutralizing lethal toxin (LT) in vitro. Nonneutralizing antibodies also fail to neutralize toxin when present in combination with other nonneutralizing paratopes. Although neutralizing antibodies recognize determinants throughout the PA monomer, they are significantly less common among those paratopes that bind to the immunodominant amino-terminal portion of the molecule. These findings demonstrate that PA binding alone is not sufficient to neutralize LT and suggest that for an antibody to effectively block PA-mediated toxicity, it must bind to PA such that one of the requisite toxin functions is disrupted. A vaccine design strategy that directed a higher percentage of the antibody response toward neutralizing epitopes may result in a more efficacious vaccine for the prevention of anthrax infection.
Bacillus anthracis causes three forms of anthrax: inhalational, gastrointestinal, and cutaneous. Anthrax is characterized by both toxemia, which is caused by secretion of immunomodulating toxins (lethal toxin and edema toxin), and septicemia, which is associated with bacterial encapsulation. Here we report that, contrary to the current view of B. anthracis pathogenesis, B. anthracis spores germinate and establish infections at the initial site of inoculation in both inhalational and cutaneous infections without needing to be transported to draining lymph nodes, and that inhaled spores establish initial infection in nasal-associated lymphoid tissues. Furthermore, we found that Peyer's patches in the mouse intestine are the primary site of bacterial growth after intragastric inoculation, thus establishing an animal model of gastrointestinal anthrax. All routes of infection progressed to the draining lymph nodes, spleen, lungs, and ultimately the blood. These discoveries were made possible through the development of a novel dynamic mouse model of B. anthracis infection using bioluminescent non-toxinogenic capsulated bacteria that can be visualized within the mouse in real-time, and demonstrate the value of in vivo imaging in the analysis of B. anthracis infection. Our data imply that previously unrecognized portals of bacterial entry demand more intensive investigation, and will significantly transform the current perception of inhalational, gastrointestinal, and cutaneous B. anthracis pathogenesis.
Anthrax is caused by Bacillus anthracis, a bacterial pathogen that forms spores, dormant bacteria that are highly resistant to destruction. Infections initiate from the introduction of spores into airways or damaged skin, or from the consumption of contaminated food. Within the host, spores germinate, then bacteria secrete toxins that cripple the immune response and sheath themselves in a capsule that prevents them from being phagocytosed. We strove to determine in real space and time where and when spores introduced by these three routes of infection germinate and how bacteria subsequently disseminate in a mouse model. This was achieved through the development of light-emitting B. anthracis that could be tracked inside a living mouse. Contrary to current models, our studies indicated that spores germinated in situ in the skin, the intestines, and the nasal passages without needing to be transported to lymph nodes. Furthermore, bacteria disseminate from initial sites of infection in a similar fashion, first to the draining lymph nodes, then the spleen, and finally the lungs and blood. These findings imply that spore interactions with local sites of entry are critical in the development of systemic disease and that disruption of these interactions may offer new methods of anthrax prevention.
Anthrax is caused by the unimpeded growth of Bacillus anthracis in the host and the secretion of toxins. The currently available vaccine is based on protective antigen (PA), a central component of anthrax toxin. Vaccination with PA raises no direct immune response against the bacilli and, being a natural toxin component, PA might be hazardous when used immediately following exposure to B. anthracis. Thus, we have sought to develop a vaccine or therapeutic agent that is safe and eliminates both secreted toxins and bacilli. To that end, we have previously developed a dually active vaccine by conjugating the capsular poly-γ-d-glutamate (PGA) with PA to elicit the production of antibodies specific for both bacilli and toxins. In the present report, we describe the improved potency of anthrax vaccines through the use of a dominant-negative inhibitory (DNI) mutant to replace PA in PA or PA-PGA vaccines. When tested in mice, DNI alone is more immunogenic than PA, and DNI-PGA conjugate elicits significantly higher levels of antibodies against PA and PGA than PA-PGA conjugate. To explain the enhanced immunogenicity of DNI, we propose that the two point mutations in DNI may have improved epitopes of PA allowing better antigen presentation to helper T cells. Alternatively, these mutations may enhance the immunological processing of PA by altering endosomal trafficking of the toxin in antigen-presenting cells. Because DNI has previously been demonstrated to inhibit anthrax toxin, postexposure use of DNI-based vaccines, including conjugate vaccines, may provide improved immunogenicity and therapeutic activity simultaneously.
The lack of identified exposures in 2 of the 11 cases of bioterrorism-related inhalation anthrax in 2001 raised uncertainty about the infectious dose and transmission of Bacillus anthracis. We used the Wells-Riley mathematical model of airborne infection to estimate 1) the exposure concentrations in postal facilities where cases of inhalation anthrax occurred and 2) the risk for infection in various hypothetical scenarios of exposure to B. anthracis aerosolized from contaminated mail in residential settings. These models suggest that a small number of cases of inhalation anthrax can be expected when large numbers of persons are exposed to low concentrations of B. anthracis. The risk for inhalation anthrax is determined not only by bacillary virulence factors but also by infectious aerosol production and removal rates and by host factors.
Anthrax; Air microbiology; Infection; Risk; Inhalation exposure; Lethal Dose 50; Ventilation
Inhalational anthrax, a zoonotic disease caused by the inhalation of Bacillus anthracis spores, has a ∼50% fatality rate even when treated with antibiotics. Pathogenesis is dependent on the activity of two toxic noncovalent complexes: edema toxin (EdTx) and lethal toxin (LeTx). Protective antigen (PA), an essential component of both complexes, binds with high affinity to the major receptor mediating the lethality of anthrax toxin in vivo, capillary morphogenesis protein 2 (CMG2). Certain antibodies against PA have been shown to protect against anthrax in vivo. As an alternative to anti-PA antibodies, we produced a fusion of the extracellular domain of human CMG2 and human IgG Fc, using both transient and stable tobacco plant expression systems. Optimized expression led to the CMG2-Fc fusion protein being produced at high levels: 730 mg/kg fresh leaf weight in Nicotiana benthamiana and 65 mg/kg in N. tabacum. CMG2-Fc, purified from tobacco plants, fully protected rabbits against a lethal challenge with B. anthracis spores at a dose of 2 mg/kg body weight administered at the time of challenge. Treatment with CMG2-Fc did not interfere with the development of the animals' own immunity to anthrax, as treated animals that survived an initial challenge also survived a rechallenge 30 days later. The glycosylation of the Fc (or lack thereof) had no significant effect on the protective potency of CMG2-Fc in rabbits or on its serum half-life, which was about 5 days. Significantly, CMG2-Fc effectively neutralized, in vitro, LeTx-containing mutant forms of PA that were not neutralized by anti-PA monoclonal antibodies.