Anthrax is a highly contagious and potentially fatal human disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, an aerobic, Gram-positive, spore-forming rod-shaped bacterium with worldwide distribution as a zoonotic infection in herbivore animals. Bioterrorist attacks with inhalational anthrax have prompted the development of more effective treatments. Antibodies against anthrax toxin have been shown to decrease mortality in animal studies. Raxibacumab is a recombinant human monoclonal antibody developed against inhalational anthrax. The drug received approval after human studies showed its safety and animal studies demonstrated its efficacy for treatment as well as prophylaxis against inhalational anthrax. It works by preventing binding of the protective antigen component of the anthrax toxin to its receptors in host cells, thereby blocking the toxin’s deleterious effects. Recently updated therapy guidelines for Bacillus anthracis recommend the use of antitoxin treatment. Raxibacumab is the first monoclonal antitoxin antibody made available that can be used with the antibiotics recommended for treatment of the disease. When exposure is suspected, raxibacumab should be given with anthrax vaccination to augment immunity. Raxibacumab provides additional protection against inhalational anthrax via a mechanism different from that of either antibiotics or active immunization. In combination with currently available and recommended therapies, raxibacumab should reduce the morbidity and mortality of inhalational anthrax.
anthrax; monoclonal antibody; protective antigen; raxibacumab
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bacillus anthracis infection (anthrax) can be highly lethal. Two recent outbreaks related to contaminated mail in the USA and heroin in the UK and Europe and its potential as a bioterrorist weapon have greatly increased concerns over anthrax in the developed world.
This review summarizes the microbiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of anthrax.
Results and conclusions
Anthrax, a gram-positive bacterium, has typically been associated with three forms of infection: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and inhalational. However, the anthrax outbreak among injection drug users has emphasized the importance of what is now considered a fourth disease form (i.e., injectional anthrax) that is characterized by severe soft tissue infection. While cutaneous anthrax is most common, its early stages are distinct and prompt appropriate treatment commonly produces a good outcome. However, early symptoms with the other three disease forms can be nonspecific and mistaken for less lethal conditions. As a result, patients with gastrointestinal, inhalational, or injectional anthrax may have advanced infection at presentation that can be highly lethal. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with gram stain and culture from blood or tissue followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR). While antibiotics are the mainstay of anthrax treatment, use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists are a consideration. Prompt surgical therapy appears to be important for successful management of injectional anthrax.
Bacillus anthracis; Anthrax; Pathogenesis; Diagnosis; Treatment
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.
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.
Bacillus anthracis toxins can be neutralized by antibodies against protective antigen (PA), a component of anthrax toxins. Anthrivig (human anthrax immunoglobulin), also known as AIGIV, derived from plasma of humans immunized with BioThrax (anthrax vaccine adsorbed), is under development for the treatment of toxemia following exposure to anthrax spores. The pharmacokinetics (PK) of AIGIV was assessed in naive animals and healthy human volunteers, and the efficacy of AIGIV was assessed in animals exposed via inhalation to aerosolized B. anthracis spores. In the clinical study, safety, tolerability, and PK were evaluated in three dose cohorts (3.5, 7.1, and 14.2 mg/kg of body weight of anti-PA IgG) with 30 volunteers per cohort. The elimination half-life of AIGIV in rabbits, nonhuman primates (NHPs), and humans following intravenous infusion was estimated to be approximately 4, 12, and 24 days, respectively, and dose proportionality was observed. In a time-based treatment study, AIGIV protected 89 to 100% of animals when administered 12 h postexposure; however, a lower survival rate of 39% was observed when animals were treated 24 h postexposure, underscoring the need for early intervention. In a separate set of studies, animals were treated on an individual basis upon detection of a clinical sign or biomarker of disease, namely, a significant increase in body temperature (SIBT) in rabbits and presence of PA in the serum of NHPs. In these trigger-based intervention studies, AIGIV induced up to 75% survival in rabbits depending on the dose and severity of toxemia at the time of treatment. In NHPs, up to 33% survival was observed in AIGIV-treated animals. (The clinical study has been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov under registration no. NCT00845650.)
The recent use of Bacillus anthracis as a bioweapon has stimulated the search for novel antitoxins and vaccines that act rapidly and with minimal adverse effects. B. anthracis produces an AB-type toxin composed of the receptor-binding moiety protective antigen (PA) and the enzymatic moieties edema factor and lethal factor. PA is a key target for both antitoxin and vaccine development. We used the icosahedral insect virus Flock House virus as a platform to display 180 copies of the high affinity, PA-binding von Willebrand A domain of the ANTXR2 cellular receptor. The chimeric virus-like particles (VLPs) correctly displayed the receptor von Willebrand A domain on their surface and inhibited lethal toxin action in in vitro and in vivo models of anthrax intoxication. Moreover, VLPs complexed with PA elicited a potent toxin-neutralizing antibody response that protected rats from anthrax lethal toxin challenge after a single immunization without adjuvant. This recombinant VLP platform represents a novel and highly effective, dually-acting reagent for treatment and protection against anthrax.
Anthrax is caused by the spore-forming, Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The toxic effects of B. anthracis are predominantly due to an AB-type toxin made up of the receptor-binding subunit protective antigen (PA) and two enzymatic subunits called lethal factor and edema factor. Protective immunity to B. anthracis infection is conferred by antibodies against PA, which is the primary component of the current anthrax vaccine. Although the vaccine is safe and effective, it requires multiple injections followed by annual boosters. The development of a well-characterized vaccine that induces immunity after a single injection is an important goal. We developed a reagent that combines the functions of an anthrax antitoxin and vaccine in a single compound. It is based on multivalent display of the anthrax toxin receptor, ANTXR2, on the surface of an insect virus. We demonstrate that the recombinant virus-like particles protect rats from anthrax intoxication and that they induce a potent immune response against lethal toxin when coated with PA. This immune response protected animals against lethal toxin challenge after a single administration without adjuvant. The PA-coated particles have significant advantages as an immunogen compared to monomeric PA and form the basis for development of an improved anthrax vaccine.
Present-day rational drug design approaches are based on exploiting unique features of the target biomolecules, small- or macromolecule drug candidates, and physical forces that govern their interactions. The 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems” once again demonstrated the importance of the tailored drug discovery that reduces the role of the trial and error approach to a minimum. The “rational drug design” term is rather comprehensive as it includes all contemporary methods of drug discovery where serendipity and screening are substituted by the information-guided search for new and existing compounds. Successful implementation of these innovative drug discovery approaches is inevitably preceded by learning the physics, chemistry, and physiology of functioning of biological structures under normal and pathological conditions.
This article provides an overview of the recent rational drug design approaches to discover inhibitors of anthrax toxin. Some of the examples include small-molecule and peptide-based post-exposure therapeutic agents as well as several polyvalent compounds. The review also directs the reader to the vast literature on the recognized advances and future possibilities in the field.
Existing options to combat anthrax toxin lethality are limited. With the only anthrax toxin inhibiting therapy (PA-targeting with a monoclonal antibody, raxibacumab) approved to treat inhalational anthrax, in our view, the situation is still insecure. The FDA’s animal rule for drug approval, which clears compounds without validated efficacy studies on humans, creates a high level of uncertainty, especially when a well-characterized animal model does not exist. Besides, unlike PA, which is known to be unstable, LF remains active in cells and in animal tissues for days. Therefore, the effectiveness of the post-exposure treatment of the individuals with anti-PA therapeutics can be time-dependent, requiring coordinated use of membrane permeable small-molecule inhibitors, which block the LF and EF enzymatic activity intracellularly. The desperate search for an ideal anthrax antitoxin allowed researchers to gain important knowledge of the basic principles of small-molecule interactions with their protein targets that could be easily transferred to other systems. At the same time, better identification and validation of anthrax toxin therapeutic targets at the molecular level, which include understanding of the physical forces underlying the target/drug interaction, as well as elucidation of the parameters determining the corresponding therapeutic windows, require further examination.
rational drug design; Bacillus anthracis; binary toxins; antitoxins; polyvalent interactions
Bacillus anthracis infection is rare in developed countries. However, recent outbreaks in the United States and Europe and the potential use of the bacteria for bioterrorism have focused interest on it. Furthermore, although anthrax was known to typically occur as one of three syndromes related to entry site of (i.e., cutaneous, gastrointestinal, or inhalational), a fourth syndrome including severe soft tissue infection in injectional drug users is emerging. Although shock has been described with cutaneous anthrax, it appears much more common with gastrointestinal, inhalational (5 of 11 patients in the 2001 outbreak in the United States), and injectional anthrax. Based in part on case series, the estimated mortalities of cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalational, and injectional anthrax are 1%, 25 to 60%, 46%, and 33%, respectively. Nonspecific early symptomatology makes initial identification of anthrax cases difficult. Clues to anthrax infection include history of exposure to herbivore animal products, heroin use, or clustering of patients with similar respiratory symptoms concerning for a bioterrorist event. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with Gram stain and culture from blood or surgical specimens followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR or immunohistochemistry). Although antibiotic therapy (largely quinolone-based) is the mainstay of anthrax treatment, the use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists is a consideration.
Bacillus anthracis; diagnosis; pathogenesis; treatment
Effective measures for the prophylaxis and treatment of anthrax are still required for counteracting the threat posed by inhalation anthrax. In this study, we first demonstrated that the chimeric protein LFn-PA, created by fusing the protective antigen (PA)-binding domain of lethal factor (LFn) to PA, retained the functions of the respective molecules. On the basis of this observation, we attempted to develop an antitoxin that targets the binding of lethal factor (LF) and/or edema factor (EF) to PA and the transportation of LF/EF. Therefore, we replaced PA in LFn-PA with a dominant-negative inhibitory PA (DPA), i.e., PAF427D. In in vitro models of anthrax intoxication, the LFn-DPA chimera showed 3-fold and 2-fold higher potencies than DPA in protecting sensitive cells against anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx) and edema toxin (EdTx), respectively. In animal models, LFn-DPA exhibited strong potency in rescuing mice from lethal challenge with LeTx. We also evaluated the immunogenicity and immunoprotective efficacy of LFn-DPA as an anthrax vaccine candidate. In comparison with recombinant PA, LFn-DPA induced significantly higher levels of the anti-PA immune response. Moreover, LFn-DPA elicited an anti-LF antibody response that could cross-react with EF. Mice immunized with LFn-DPA tolerated a LeTx challenge that was 5 times its 50% lethal dose. Thus, LFn-DPA represents a highly effective trivalent vaccine candidate for both preexposure and postexposure vaccination. Overall, we have developed a novel and dually functional reagent for the prophylaxis and treatment of anthrax.
Rapid public health response to a large-scale anthrax attack would reduce overall morbidity and mortality. However, there is uncertainty about the optimal cost-effective response strategy based on timing of intervention, public health resources, and critical care facilities. We conducted a decision analytic study to compare response strategies to a theoretical large-scale anthrax attack on the Chicago metropolitan area beginning either Day 2 or Day 5 after the attack. These strategies correspond to the policy options set forth by the Anthrax Modeling Working Group for population-wide responses to a large-scale anthrax attack: (1) postattack antibiotic prophylaxis, (2) postattack antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination, (3) preattack vaccination with postattack antibiotic prophylaxis, and (4) preattack vaccination with postattack antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination. Outcomes were measured in costs, lives saved, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). We estimated that postattack antibiotic prophylaxis of all 1,390,000 anthrax-exposed people beginning on Day 2 after attack would result in 205,835 infected victims, 35,049 fulminant victims, and 28,612 deaths. Only 6,437 (18.5%) of the fulminant victims could be saved with the existing critical care facilities in the Chicago metropolitan area. Mortality would increase to 69,136 if the response strategy began on Day 5. Including postattack vaccination with antibiotic prophylaxis of all exposed people reduces mortality and is cost-effective for both Day 2 (ICER=$182/QALY) and Day 5 (ICER=$1,088/QALY) response strategies. Increasing ICU bed availability significantly reduces mortality for all response strategies. We conclude that postattack antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination of all exposed people is the optimal cost-effective response strategy for a large-scale anthrax attack. Our findings support the US government's plan to provide antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination for all exposed people within 48 hours of the recognition of a large-scale anthrax attack. Future policies should consider expanding critical care capacity to allow for the rescue of more victims.
Rapid public health response to a large-scale anthrax attack would reduce overall morbidity and mortality, but what is the optimal cost-effective response strategy for timing of intervention, public health resources, and critical care facilities? Using a hypothetical large-scale anthrax attack on the Chicago metropolitan area, this study compared response strategies that would begin either 2 days or 5 days after the attack and would consist of administering prophylaxis and vaccine in various combinations. The findings support the government's plan to provide antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination for all exposed people within 48 hours of the recognition of a large-scale anthrax attack.
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.
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
Bacillus anthracis produces a binary toxin composed of protective antigen (PA) and one of two subunits, lethal factor (LF) or edema factor (EF). Most studies have concentrated on induction of toxin-specific antibodies as the correlate of protective immunity, in contrast to which understanding of cellular immunity to these toxins and its impact on infection is limited. We characterized CD4+ T cell immunity to LF in a panel of humanized HLA-DR and DQ transgenic mice and in naturally exposed patients. As the variation in antigen presentation governed by HLA polymorphism has a major impact on protective immunity to specific epitopes, we examined relative binding affinities of LF peptides to purified HLA class II molecules, identifying those regions likely to be of broad applicability to human immune studies through their ability to bind multiple alleles. Transgenics differing only in their expression of human HLA class II alleles showed a marked hierarchy of immunity to LF. Immunogenicity in HLA transgenics was primarily restricted to epitopes from domains II and IV of LF and promiscuous, dominant epitopes, common to all HLA types, were identified in domain II. The relevance of this model was further demonstrated by the fact that a number of the immunodominant epitopes identified in mice were recognized by T cells from humans previously infected with cutaneous anthrax and from vaccinated individuals. The ability of the identified epitopes to confer protective immunity was demonstrated by lethal anthrax challenge of HLA transgenic mice immunized with a peptide subunit vaccine comprising the immunodominant epitopes that we identified.
Anthrax is of concern with respect to human exposure in endemic regions, concerns about bioterrorism and the considerable global burden of livestock infections. The immunology of this disease remains poorly understood. Vaccination has been based on B. anthracis filtrates or attenuated spore-based vaccines, with more recent trials of next-generation recombinant vaccines. Approaches generally require extensive vaccination regimens and there have been concerns about immunogenicity and adverse reactions. An ongoing need remains for rationally designed, effective and safe anthrax vaccines. The importance of T cell stimulating vaccines is inceasingly recognized. An essential step is an understanding of immunodominant epitopes and their relevance across the diverse HLA immune response genes of human populations. We characterized CD4 T cell immunity to anthrax Lethal Factor (LF), using HLA transgenic mice, as well as testing candidate peptide epitopes for binding to a wide range of HLA alleles. We identified anthrax epitopes, noteworthy in that they elicit exceptionally strong immunity with promiscuous binding across multiple HLA alleles and isotypes. T cell responses in humans exposed to LF through either natural anthrax infection or vaccination were also examined. Epitopes identified as candidates were used to protect HLA transgenic mice from anthrax challenge.
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 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.
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
Potent anthrax toxin neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies were generated from peripheral blood lymphocytes obtained from Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) immune donors. The anti-anthrax toxin human monoclonal antibodies were evaluated for neutralization of anthrax lethal toxin in vivo in the Fisher 344 rat bolus toxin challenge model.
Human peripheral blood lymphocytes from AVA immunized donors were engrafted into severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. Vaccination with anthrax protective antigen and lethal factor produced a significant increase in antigen specific human IgG in the mouse serum. The antibody producing lymphocytes were immortalized by hybridoma formation. The genes encoding the protective antibodies were rescued and stable cell lines expressing full-length human immunoglobulin were established. The antibodies were characterized by; (1) surface plasmon resonance; (2) inhibition of toxin in an in vitro mouse macrophage cell line protection assay and (3) in vivo in a Fischer 344 bolus lethal toxin challenge model.
The range of antibodies generated were diverse with evidence of extensive hyper mutation, and all were of very high affinity for PA83~1 × 10-10-11M. Moreover all the antibodies were potent inhibitors of anthrax lethal toxin in vitro. A single IV dose of AVP-21D9 or AVP-22G12 was found to confer full protection with as little as 0.5× (AVP-21D9) and 1× (AVP-22G12) molar equivalence relative to the anthrax toxin in the rat challenge prophylaxis model.
Here we describe a powerful technology to capture the recall antibody response to AVA vaccination and provide detailed molecular characterization of the protective human monoclonal antibodies. AVP-21D9, AVP-22G12 and AVP-1C6 protect rats from anthrax lethal toxin at low dose. Aglycosylated versions of the most potent antibodies are also protective in vivo, suggesting that lethal toxin neutralization is not Fc effector mediated. The protective effect of AVP-21D9 persists for at least one week in rats. These potent fully human anti-PA toxin-neutralizing antibodies are attractive candidates for prophylaxis and/or treatment against Anthrax Class A bioterrorism toxins.
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.
Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by Bacillus anthracis. It is potentially fatal and highly contagious disease. Herbivores are the natural host. Human acquire the disease incidentally by contact with infected animal or animal products. In the 18th century an epidemic destroyed approximately half of the sheep in Europe. In 1900 human inhalational anthrax occured sporadically in the United States. In 1979 an outbreak of human anthrax occured in Sverdlovsk of Soviet Union. Anthrax continued to represent a world wide presence. The incidence of the disease has decreased in developed countries as a result of vaccination and improved industrial hygiene. Human anthrax clinically presents in three forms, i.e. cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalational. About 95% of human anthrax is cutaneous and 5% is inhalational. Gastrointestinal anthrax is very rare (less than 1%). Inhalational form is used as a biological warefare agent. Penicillin, ciprofloxacin (and other quinolones), doxicyclin, ampicillin, imipenem, clindamycin, clarithromycin, vancomycin, chloramphenicol, rifampicin are effective antimicrobials. Antimicrobial therapy for 60 days is recommended. Human anthrax vaccine is available. Administration of anti-protective antigen (PA) antibody in combination with ciprofloxacin produced 90%-100% survival. The combination of CPG-adjuvanted anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) plus dalbavancin significantly improved survival.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; Zoonotic disease; Contagious disease; Cutaneous anthrax; Inhalational anthrax; Gastrointestinal anthrax; Human anthrax
Expanded options for treatments directed against pathogens that can be used for bioterrorism are urgently needed. Treatment regimens directed against such pathogens can be identified only by using data derived from in vitro and animal studies. It is crucial that these studies reliably predict the efficacy of proposed treatments in humans. The objective of this study was to identify a levofloxacin treatment regimen that will serve as an effective therapy for Bacillus anthracis infections and postexposure prophylaxis. An in vitro hollow-fiber infection model that replicates the pharmacokinetic profile of levofloxacin observed in humans (half-life [t1/2], 7.5 h) or in animals, such as the mouse or the rhesus monkey (t1/2, ∼2 h), was used to evaluate a proposed indication for levofloxacin (500 mg once daily) for the treatment of Bacillus anthracis infections. The results obtained with the in vitro model served as the basis for the doses and the dose schedules that were evaluated in the mouse inhalational anthrax model. The effects of levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin treatment were compared to those of no treatment (untreated controls). The main outcome measure in the in vitro hollow-fiber infection model was a persistent reduction of culture density (≥4 log10 reduction) and prevention of the emergence of levofloxacin-resistant organisms. In the mouse inhalational anthrax model the main outcome measure was survival. The results indicated that levofloxacin given once daily with simulated human pharmacokinetics effectively sterilized Bacillus anthracis cultures. By using a simulated animal pharmacokinetic profile, a once-daily dosing regimen that provided a human-equivalent exposure failed to sterilize the cultures. Dosing regimens that “partially humanized” levofloxacin exposures within the constraints of animal pharmacokinetics reproduced the antimicrobial efficacy seen with human pharmacokinetics. In a mouse inhalational anthrax model, once-daily dosing was significantly inferior (survival end point) to regimens of dosing every 12 h or every 6 h with identical total daily levofloxacin doses. These results demonstrate the predictive value of the in vitro hollow-fiber infection model with respect to the success or the failure of treatment regimens in animals. Furthermore, the model permits the evaluation of treatment regimens that “humanize” antibiotic exposures in animal models, enhancing the confidence with which animal models may be used to reliably predict the efficacies of proposed antibiotic treatments in humans in situations (e.g., the release of pathogens as agents of bioterrorism or emerging infectious diseases) where human trials cannot be performed. A treatment regimen effective in rhesus monkeys was identified.
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