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1.  Substrate Binding Mode and Its Implication on Drug Design for Botulinum Neurotoxin A 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(9):e1000165.
The seven antigenically distinct serotypes of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxins, the causative agents of botulism, block the neurotransmitter release by specifically cleaving one of the three SNARE proteins and induce flaccid paralysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared them as Category A biowarfare agents. The most potent among them, botulinum neurotoxin type A (BoNT/A), cleaves its substrate synaptosome-associated protein of 25 kDa (SNAP-25). An efficient drug for botulism can be developed only with the knowledge of interactions between the substrate and enzyme at the active site. Here, we report the crystal structures of the catalytic domain of BoNT/A with its uncleavable SNAP-25 peptide 197QRATKM202 and its variant 197RRATKM202 to 1.5 Å and 1.6 Å, respectively. This is the first time the structure of an uncleavable substrate bound to an active botulinum neurotoxin is reported and it has helped in unequivocally defining S1 to S5′ sites. These substrate peptides make interactions with the enzyme predominantly by the residues from 160, 200, 250 and 370 loops. Most notably, the amino nitrogen and carbonyl oxygen of P1 residue (Gln197) chelate the zinc ion and replace the nucleophilic water. The P1′-Arg198, occupies the S1′ site formed by Arg363, Thr220, Asp370, Thr215, Ile161, Phe163 and Phe194. The S2′ subsite is formed by Arg363, Asn368 and Asp370, while S3′ subsite is formed by Tyr251, Leu256, Val258, Tyr366, Phe369 and Asn388. P4′-Lys201 makes hydrogen bond with Gln162. P5′-Met202 binds in the hydrophobic pocket formed by the residues from the 250 and 200 loop. Knowledge of interactions between the enzyme and substrate peptide from these complex structures should form the basis for design of potent inhibitors for this neurotoxin.
Author Summary
Botulinum neurotoxins are the most poisonous substance to humans. The ease with which the bacteria can be grown, its potency and persistence have made it a potential bioterrorism agent, and accordingly, botulinum neurotoxin has been declared as Category A agent by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Since it is both a potential bioweapon and a bioterrorism agent, it is imperative to develop counter measures and therapeutics for these neurotoxins, as none are available so far except experimental vaccines and an FDA-approved equine antitoxin. Our work presented here is an important milestone towards achieving this goal. The best antidote can be developed by blocking the active site of any enzyme. The crystal structures of substrate peptide–enzyme complex presented here map the interactions between the two and provide critical information for designing effective drugs against this toxin.
PMCID: PMC2533696  PMID: 18818739
2.  Making vaccines “on demand” 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2013;9(9):1877-1884.
The integrated US Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE) has made great strides in strategic preparedness and response capabilities. There have been numerous advances in planning, biothreat countermeasure development, licensure, manufacturing, stockpiling and deployment. Increased biodefense surveillance capability has dramatically improved, while new tools and increased awareness have fostered rapid identification of new potential public health pathogens. Unfortunately, structural delays in vaccine design, development, manufacture, clinical testing and licensure processes remain significant obstacles to an effective national biodefense rapid response capability. This is particularly true for the very real threat of “novel pathogens” such as the avian-origin influenzas H7N9 and H5N1, and new coronaviruses such as hCoV-EMC. Conventional approaches to vaccine development, production, clinical testing and licensure are incompatible with the prompt deployment needed for an effective public health response. An alternative approach, proposed here, is to apply computational vaccine design tools and rapid production technologies that now make it possible to engineer vaccines for novel emerging pathogen and WMD biowarfare agent countermeasures in record time. These new tools have the potential to significantly reduce the time needed to design string-of-epitope vaccines for previously unknown pathogens. The design process—from genome to gene sequence, ready to insert in a DNA plasmid—can now be accomplished in less than 24 h. While these vaccines are by no means “standard,” the need for innovation in the vaccine design and production process is great. Should such vaccines be developed, their 60-d start-to-finish timeline would represent a 2-fold faster response than the current standard.
PMCID: PMC3906351  PMID: 23877094
biothreat; medical countermeasure; H7N9; H5N1; SARS; coronavirus; immunoinformatics; vaccine; emerging infectious disease
3.  Antibodies for biodefense 
mAbs  2011;3(6):517-527.
Potential bioweapons are biological agents (bacteria, viruses and toxins) at risk of intentional dissemination. Biodefense, defined as development of therapeutics and vaccines against these agents, has seen an increase, particularly in the US, following the 2001 anthrax attack. This review focuses on recombinant antibodies and polyclonal antibodies for biodefense that have been accepted for clinical use. These antibodies aim to protect against primary potential bioweapons or category A agents as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, botulinum neurotoxins, smallpox virus and certain others causing viral hemorrhagic fevers) and certain category B agents. Potential for prophylactic use is presented, as well as frequent use of oligoclonal antibodies or synergistic effect with other molecules. Capacities and limitations of antibodies for use in biodefense are discussed, and are generally applicable to the field of infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC3242838  PMID: 22123065
antibody; anthrax; plague; smallpox; botulism; tularemia; brucellosis; hemorrhagic; ricin; SEB
4.  Inhalational Botulism in Rhesus Macaques Exposed to Botulinum Neurotoxin Complex Serotypes A1 and B1▿ †  
A recombinant botulinum vaccine (rBV A/B) is being developed for protection against inhalational intoxication with botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) complex serotype A, subtype A1 (BoNT/A1), and BoNT serotype B, subtype B1 (BoNT/B1). A critical component for evaluating rBV A/B efficacy will be the use of animal models in which the pathophysiology and dose-response relationships following aerosol exposure to well-characterized BoNT are thoroughly understood and documented. This study was designed to estimate inhaled 50% lethal doses (LD50) and to estimate 50% lethal exposure concentrations relative to time (LCt50) in rhesus macaques exposed to well-characterized BoNT/A1 and BoNT/B1. During the course of this study, clinical observations, body weights, clinical hematology results, clinical chemistry results, circulating neurotoxin levels, and telemetric parameters were documented to aid in the understanding of disease progression. The inhaled LD50 and LCt50 for BoNT/A1 and BoNT/B1 in rhesus macaques were determined using well-characterized challenge material. Clinical observations were consistent with the recognized pattern of botulism disease progression. A dose response was demonstrated with regard to the onset of these clinical signs for both BoNT/A1 and BoNT/B1. Dose-related changes in physiologic parameters measured by telemetry were also observed. In contrast, notable changes in body weight, hematology, and clinical chemistry parameters were not observed. Circulating levels of BoNT/B1 were detected in animals exposed to the highest levels of BoNT/B1; however, BoNT/A1 was not detected in the circulation at any aerosol exposure level. The rhesus macaque aerosol challenge model will be used for future evaluations of rBV A/B efficacy against inhalational BoNT/A1 and BoNT/B1 intoxication.
PMCID: PMC2944462  PMID: 20660138
5.  Mutated and Bacteriophage T4 Nanoparticle Arrayed F1-V Immunogens from Yersinia pestis as Next Generation Plague Vaccines 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003495.
Pneumonic plague is a highly virulent infectious disease with 100% mortality rate, and its causative organism Yersinia pestis poses a serious threat for deliberate use as a bioterror agent. Currently, there is no FDA approved vaccine against plague. The polymeric bacterial capsular protein F1, a key component of the currently tested bivalent subunit vaccine consisting, in addition, of low calcium response V antigen, has high propensity to aggregate, thus affecting its purification and vaccine efficacy. We used two basic approaches, structure-based immunogen design and phage T4 nanoparticle delivery, to construct new plague vaccines that provided complete protection against pneumonic plague. The NH2-terminal β-strand of F1 was transplanted to the COOH-terminus and the sequence flanking the β-strand was duplicated to eliminate polymerization but to retain the T cell epitopes. The mutated F1 was fused to the V antigen, a key virulence factor that forms the tip of the type three secretion system (T3SS). The F1mut-V protein showed a dramatic switch in solubility, producing a completely soluble monomer. The F1mut-V was then arrayed on phage T4 nanoparticle via the small outer capsid protein, Soc. The F1mut-V monomer was robustly immunogenic and the T4-decorated F1mut-V without any adjuvant induced balanced TH1 and TH2 responses in mice. Inclusion of an oligomerization-deficient YscF, another component of the T3SS, showed a slight enhancement in the potency of F1-V vaccine, while deletion of the putative immunomodulatory sequence of the V antigen did not improve the vaccine efficacy. Both the soluble (purified F1mut-V mixed with alhydrogel) and T4 decorated F1mut-V (no adjuvant) provided 100% protection to mice and rats against pneumonic plague evoked by high doses of Y. pestis CO92. These novel platforms might lead to efficacious and easily manufacturable next generation plague vaccines.
Author Summary
Plague caused by Yersinia pestis is a deadly disease that wiped out one-third of Europe's population in the 14th century. The organism is listed by the CDC as Tier-1 biothreat agent, and currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine against this pathogen. Stockpiling of an efficacious plague vaccine that could protect people against a potential bioterror attack has been a national priority. The current vaccines based on the capsular antigen (F1) and the low calcium response V antigen, are promising against both bubonic and pneumonic plague. However, the polymeric nature of F1 with its propensity to aggregate affects vaccine efficacy and generates varied immune responses in humans. We have addressed a series of concerns and generated mutants of F1 and V, which are completely soluble and produced in high yields. We then engineered the vaccine into a novel delivery platform using the bacteriophage T4 nanoparticle. The nanoparticle vaccines induced robust immunogenicity and provided 100% protection to mice and rats against pneumonic plague. These highly efficacious new generation plague vaccines are easily manufactured, and the potent T4 platform which can simultaneously incorporate antigens from other biothreat or emerging infectious agents provides a convenient way for mass vaccination of humans against multiple pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3708895  PMID: 23853602
6.  Remote monitoring of the progression of primary pneumonic plague in Brown Norway rats in high-capacity, high-containment housing 
Pathogens and disease  2014;71(2):263-273.
Development of new vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics for biodefense or other relatively rare infectious diseases is hindered by the lack of naturally occurring human disease on which to conduct clinical trials of efficacy. To overcome this experimental gap, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration established the Animal Rule, in which efficacy testing in two well-characterized animal models that closely resemble human disease may be accepted in lieu of large scale clinical trials for diseases with limited natural human incidence. In this report, we evaluated the Brown Norway rat as a model for pneumonic plague and describe the natural history of clinical disease following inhalation exposure to Yersinia pestis. In high-capacity, high-containment housing, we monitored temperature, activity, heart rate and rhythm by capturing electronic impulses transmitted from abdominal telemeter implants. Using this system, we show that reduced activity and development of fever are sensitive indications of disease progression. Furthermore, we identified heart arrhythmias as contributing factors to the rapid progression to lethality following the fever response. Together these data validate the Brown Norway rat as an experimental model for human pneumonic plague and provide new insight that may ultimately lead to novel approaches in post-exposure treatment of this devastating infection.
PMCID: PMC4107105  PMID: 24719212
infectious diseases; Yersinia pestis; animal models; telemetry
7.  Complete Protection against Pneumonic and Bubonic Plague after a Single Oral Vaccination 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(10):e0004162.
No efficient vaccine against plague is currently available. We previously showed that a genetically attenuated Yersinia pseudotuberculosis producing the Yersinia pestis F1 antigen was an efficient live oral vaccine against pneumonic plague. This candidate vaccine however failed to confer full protection against bubonic plague and did not produce F1 stably.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The caf operon encoding F1 was inserted into the chromosome of a genetically attenuated Y. pseudotuberculosis, yielding the VTnF1 strain, which stably produced the F1 capsule. Given orally to mice, VTnF1 persisted two weeks in the mouse gut and induced a high humoral response targeting both F1 and other Y. pestis antigens. The strong cellular response elicited was directed mostly against targets other than F1, but also against F1. It involved cells with a Th1—Th17 effector profile, producing IFNγ, IL-17, and IL-10. A single oral dose (108 CFU) of VTnF1 conferred 100% protection against pneumonic plague using a high-dose challenge (3,300 LD50) caused by the fully virulent Y. pestis CO92. Moreover, vaccination protected 100% of mice from bubonic plague caused by a challenge with 100 LD50 Y. pestis and 93% against a high-dose infection (10,000 LD50). Protection involved fast-acting mechanisms controlling Y. pestis spread out of the injection site, and the protection provided was long-lasting, with 93% and 50% of mice surviving bubonic and pneumonic plague respectively, six months after vaccination. Vaccinated mice also survived bubonic and pneumonic plague caused by a high-dose of non-encapsulated (F1-) Y. pestis.
VTnF1 is an easy-to-produce, genetically stable plague vaccine candidate, providing a highly efficient and long-lasting protection against both bubonic and pneumonic plague caused by wild type or un-encapsulated (F1-negative) Y. pestis. To our knowledge, VTnF1 is the only plague vaccine ever reported that could provide high and durable protection against the two forms of plague after a single oral administration.
Author Summary
Yersinia pestis, the agent of plague, is among the deadliest infectious agents affecting humans. Injected in the skin by infected fleas, Y. pestis causes bubonic plague, which occasionally evolves into the very lethal and contagious pneumonic plague. Y. pestis is also a dangerous potential bioweapon but no plague vaccine is available. The current study describes the development of a vaccine highly efficient against plague in both its bubonic and pneumonic forms. The strategy consists of a live, avirulent, genetically modified Yersinia pseudotuberculosis that produces the capsule antigen of Y. pestis, named F1. The goal was to propose a vaccine that would be both easy to produce rapidly in large amounts with high quality, and easy to administer to individuals via a single oral dose. The VTnF1 strain described fulfills these demands. The immune response generated is long-lasting, involving both antibodies and memory cells directed against F1 and other antigens. We conclude that VTnF1 is a very promising candidate vaccine against plague.
PMCID: PMC4608741  PMID: 26473734
8.  Ambient Stable Quantitative PCR Reagents for the Detection of Yersinia pestis 
Although assays for detecting Yersinia pestis using TaqMan probe-based real-time PCR have been developed for years, little is reported on room-temperature-stable PCR reagents, which will be invaluable for field epidemic surveillance, immediate response to public health emergencies, counter-bioterrorism investigation, etc. In this work, a set of real-time PCR reagents for rapid detection of Y. pestis was developed with extraordinary stability at 37°C.
Methods/Principal Findings
TaqMan-based real-time PCR assays were developed using the primers and probes targeting the 3a sequence in the chromosome and the F1 antigen gene caf1 in the plasmid pMT1of Y. pestis, respectively. Then, carbohydrate mixtures were added to the PCR reagents, which were later vacuum-dried for stability evaluation. The vacuum-dried reagents were stable at 37°C for at least 49 days for a lower concentration of template DNA (10 copies/µl), and up to 79 days for higher concentrations (≥102 copies/µl). The reagents were used subsequently to detect soil samples spiked with Y. pestis vaccine strain EV76, and 5×104 CFU per gram of soil could be detected by both 3a- and caf1-based PCR reagents. In addition, a simple and efficient method for soil sample processing is presented here.
The vacuum-dried reagents for real-time PCR maintain accuracy and reproducibility for at least 49 days at 37°C, indicating that they can be easily transported at room temperature for field application if the machine for performing real-time PCR is available. This dry reagent is of great significance for routine plague surveillance.
Author Summary
Plague, caused by Yersinia pestis, is one of the oldest and most dangerous diseases in human history, and has claimed millions of lives in the three major historical pandemics. Although panic caused by the Black Death is fading, the threat of the reemergence of plague pandemics still exists, with the additional potential of misuse in biowarfare or bioterrorism. Rapid on-site detection and identification of the pathogen is of paramount significance for timely implementation of effective countermeasures. TaqMan probe-based real-time PCR assays can give quick and accurate identification; however, the need for cold delivery and storage prevents its potential on-site application. The objective of this study was to develop a stable PCR system for easy delivery and storage under room temperature, which is vital for conventional plague surveillance and for preparedness in public health emergencies. We present a solution to this particular issue, hoping that it is helpful to future applications.
PMCID: PMC2834737  PMID: 20231881
9.  Prevention of pneumonic plague in mice, rats, guinea pigs and non-human primates with clinical grade rV10, rV10-2 or F1-V vaccines 
Vaccine  2011;29(38):6572-6583.
Yersinia pestis causes plague, a disease with high mortality in humans that can be transmitted by fleabite or aerosol. A US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-licensed plague vaccine is currently not available. Vaccine developers have focused on two subunits of Y. pestis: LcrV, a protein at the tip of type III secretion needles, and F1, the fraction 1 pilus antigen. F1-V, a hybrid generated via translational fusion of both antigens, is being developed for licensure as a plague vaccine. The rV10 vaccine is a non-toxigenic variant of LcrV lacking residues 271–300. Here we developed Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) protocols for rV10. Comparison of clinical grade rV10 with F1-V did not reveal significant differences in plague protection in mice, guinea pigs or cynomolgus macaques. We also developed cGMP protocols for rV10-2, a variant of rV10 with an altered affinity tag. Immunization with rV10-2 adsorbed to aluminum hydroxide elicited antibodies against LcrV and conferred pneumonic plague protection in mice, rats, guinea pigs, cynomolgus macaques and African Green monkeys. The data support further development of rV10-2 for FDA Investigational New Drug (IND) authorization review and clinical testing.
PMCID: PMC3538834  PMID: 21763383
10.  Developing live vaccines against Yersinia pestis 
Three great plague pandemics caused by the gram-negative bacterium Yersinia pestis have killed nearly 200 million people and it has been linked to biowarfare in the past. Plague is endemic in many parts of the world. In addition, the risk of plague as a bioweapon has prompted increased research to develop plague vaccines against this disease. Injectable subunit vaccines are being developed in the United States and United Kingdom. However, the live attenuated Y. pestis-EV NIIEG strain has been used as a vaccine for more than 70 years in the former Soviet Union and in some parts of Asia and provides a high degree of efficacy against plague. This vaccine has not gained general acceptance because of safety concerns. In recent years, modern molecular biological techniques have been applied to Y. pestis to construct strains with specific defined mutations designed to create safe, immunogenic vaccines with potential for use in humans and as bait vaccines to reduce the load of Y. pestis in the environment. In addition, a number of live, vectored vaccines have been reported using attenuated viral vectors or attenuated Salmonella strains to deliver plague antigens. Here we summarize the progress of live attenuated vaccines against plague.
PMCID: PMC3932668  PMID: 21918302
Yersinia pestis; plague; live vaccines
11.  Binary Bacterial Toxins: Biochemistry, Biology, and Applications of Common Clostridium and Bacillus Proteins 
Certain pathogenic species of Bacillus and Clostridium have developed unique methods for intoxicating cells that employ the classic enzymatic “A-B” paradigm for protein toxins. The binary toxins produced by B. anthracis, B. cereus, C. botulinum, C. difficile, C. perfringens, and C. spiroforme consist of components not physically associated in solution that are linked to various diseases in humans, animals, or insects. The “B” components are synthesized as precursors that are subsequently activated by serine-type proteases on the targeted cell surface and/or in solution. Following release of a 20-kDa N-terminal peptide, the activated “B” components form homoheptameric rings that subsequently dock with an “A” component(s) on the cell surface. By following an acidified endosomal route and translocation into the cytosol, “A” molecules disable a cell (and host organism) via disruption of the actin cytoskeleton, increasing intracellular levels of cyclic AMP, or inactivation of signaling pathways linked to mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases. Recently, B. anthracis has gleaned much notoriety as a biowarfare/bioterrorism agent, and of primary interest has been the edema and lethal toxins, their role in anthrax, as well as the development of efficacious vaccines and therapeutics targeting these virulence factors and ultimately B. anthracis. This review comprehensively surveys the literature and discusses the similarities, as well as distinct differences, between each Clostridium and Bacillus binary toxin in terms of their biochemistry, biology, genetics, structure, and applications in science and medicine. The information may foster future studies that aid novel vaccine and drug development, as well as a better understanding of a conserved intoxication process utilized by various gram-positive, spore-forming bacteria.
PMCID: PMC515256  PMID: 15353562
12.  Yersinia pestis YopE contains a dominant CD8 T cell epitope that confers protection in a mouse model of pneumonic plague1 
Septic bacterial pneumonias are a major cause of death worldwide. Several of the highest priority bioterror concerns, including anthrax, tularemia and plague, are caused by bacteria that acutely infect the lung. Bacterial resistance to multiple antibiotics is increasingly common. Although vaccines may be our best defense against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there has been little progress in the development of safe and effective vaccines for pulmonary bacterial pathogens. The gram-negative bacterium Yersinia pestis causes pneumonic plague, an acutely lethal septic pneumonia. Historic pandemics of plague caused millions of deaths, and the plague bacilli’s potential for weaponization sustains an ongoing quest for effective countermeasures. Subunit vaccines have failed, thus far, to fully protect non-human primates. In mice, they induce the production of antibodies that act in concert with type 1 cytokines to deliver high-level protection, however, the Y. pestis antigens recognized by cytokine-producing T cells have yet to be defined. Here, we report that Y. pestis YopE is a dominant antigen recognized by CD8 T cells in C57BL/6 mice. After vaccinating with live attenuated Y. pestis and challenging intranasally with virulent plague, nearly 20% of pulmonary CD8 T cells recognize this single, highly conserved antigen. Moreover, immunizing mice with a single peptide, YopE69-77, suffices to confer significant protection from lethal pulmonary challenge. These findings suggest YopE could be a valuable addition to subunit plague vaccines and provide a new animal model in which sensitive, pathogen-specific assays can be used to study CD8 T cell-mediated defense against acutely lethal bacterial infections of the lung.
PMCID: PMC3131430  PMID: 21653834
13.  New Insights into Autoinducer-2 Signaling as a Virulence Regulator in a Mouse Model of Pneumonic Plague 
mSphere  2016;1(6):e00342-16.
Yersinia pestis is the bacterial agent that causes the highly fatal disease plague. The organism represents a significant concern because of its potential use as a bioterror agent, beyond the several thousand naturally occurring human infection cases occurring globally each year. While there has been development of effective antibiotics, the narrow therapeutic window and challenges posed by the existence of antibiotic-resistant strains represent serious concerns. We sought to identify novel virulence factors that could potentially be incorporated into an attenuated vaccine platform or be targeted by novel therapeutics. We show here that a highly conserved quorum-sensing system, autoinducer-2, significantly affected the virulence of Y. pestis in a mouse model of pneumonic plague. We also identified steps in autoinducer-2 signaling which had confounded previous studies and demonstrated the potential for intervention in the virulence mechanism(s) of autoinducer-2. Our findings may have an impact on bacterial pathogenesis research in many other organisms and could result in identifying potential broad-spectrum therapeutic targets to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which represent a global crisis of the 21st century.
The Enterobacteriaceae family members, including the infamous Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, have a highly conserved interbacterial signaling system that is mediated by the autoinducer-2 (AI-2) quorum-sensing molecule. The AI-2 system is implicated in regulating various bacterial virulence genes in diverse environmental niches. Deletion of the gene encoding the synthetic enzyme for the AI-2 substrate, luxS, leads to either no significant change or, paradoxically, an increase in in vivo bacterial virulence. We showed that deletion of the rbsA and lsrA genes, components of ABC transport systems that interact with AI-2, synergistically disrupted AI-2 signaling patterns and resulted in a more-than-50-fold decrease in Y. pestis strain CO92 virulence in a stringent pneumonic plague mouse model. Deletion of luxS or lsrK (encoding AI-2 kinase) from the ΔrbsA ΔlsrA background strain or complementation of the ΔrbsA ΔlsrA mutant with the corresponding gene(s) reverted the virulence phenotype to that of the wild-type Y. pestis CO92. Furthermore, the administration of synthetic AI-2 in mice infected with the ΔrbsA ΔlsrA ΔluxS mutant strain attenuated this triple mutant to a virulence phenotype similar to that of the ΔrbsA ΔlsrA strain in a pneumonic plague model. Conversely, the administration of AI-2 to mice infected with the ΔrbsA ΔlsrA ΔluxS ΔlsrK mutant did not rescue animals from lethality, indicating the importance of the AI-2–LsrK axis in regulating bacterial virulence. By performing high-throughput RNA sequencing, the potential role of some AI-2-signaling-regulated genes that modulated bacterial virulence was determined. We anticipate that the characterization of AI-2 signaling in Y. pestis will lead to reexamination of AI-2 systems in other pathogens and that AI-2 signaling may represent a broad-spectrum therapeutic target to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which represent a global crisis of the 21st century.
IMPORTANCE Yersinia pestis is the bacterial agent that causes the highly fatal disease plague. The organism represents a significant concern because of its potential use as a bioterror agent, beyond the several thousand naturally occurring human infection cases occurring globally each year. While there has been development of effective antibiotics, the narrow therapeutic window and challenges posed by the existence of antibiotic-resistant strains represent serious concerns. We sought to identify novel virulence factors that could potentially be incorporated into an attenuated vaccine platform or be targeted by novel therapeutics. We show here that a highly conserved quorum-sensing system, autoinducer-2, significantly affected the virulence of Y. pestis in a mouse model of pneumonic plague. We also identified steps in autoinducer-2 signaling which had confounded previous studies and demonstrated the potential for intervention in the virulence mechanism(s) of autoinducer-2. Our findings may have an impact on bacterial pathogenesis research in many other organisms and could result in identifying potential broad-spectrum therapeutic targets to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which represent a global crisis of the 21st century.
PMCID: PMC5156673  PMID: 27981238
Yersinia pestis; quorum sensing; autoinducer-2; virulence; pneumonic plague; animal models; transcriptomics
14.  HSP70 Domain II of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Modulates Immune Response and Protective Potential of F1 and LcrV Antigens of Yersinia pestis in a Mouse Model 
No ideal vaccine exists to control plague, a deadly dangerous disease caused by Yersinia pestis. In this context, we cloned, expressed and purified recombinant F1, LcrV antigens of Y. pestis and heat shock protein70 (HSP70) domain II of M. tuberculosis in E. coli. To evaluate the protective potential of each purified protein alone or in combination, Balb/C mice were immunized. Humoral and cell mediated immune responses were evaluated. Immunized animals were challenged with 100 LD50 of Y. pestis via intra-peritoneal route. Vaccine candidates i.e., F1 and LcrV generated highly significant titres of anti-F1 and anti-LcrV IgG antibodies. A significant difference was noticed in the expression level of IL-2, IFN-γ and TNF-α in splenocytes of immunized animals. Significantly increased percentages of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells producing IFN-γ in spleen of vaccinated animals were observed in comparison to control group by flow cytometric analysis. We investigated whether the F1, LcrV and HSP70(II) antigens alone or in combination can effectively protect immunized animals from any histopathological changes. Signs of histopathological lesions noticed in lung, liver, kidney and spleen of immunized animals on 3rd day post challenge whereas no lesions in animals that survived to day 20 post-infection were observed. Immunohistochemistry showed bacteria in lung, liver, spleen and kidney on 3rd day post-infection whereas no bacteria was observed on day 20 post-infection in surviving animals in LcrV, LcrV+HSP70(II), F1+LcrV, and F1+LcrV+HSP70(II) vaccinated groups. A significant difference was observed in the expression of IL-2, IFN-γ, TNF-α, and CD4+/CD8+ T cells secreting IFN-γ in the F1+LcrV+HSP70(II) vaccinated group in comparison to the F1+LcrV vaccinated group. Three combinations that included LcrV+HSP70(II), F1+LcrV or F1+LcrV+HSP70(II) provided 100% protection, whereas LcrV alone provided only 75% protection. These findings suggest that HSP70(II) of M. tuberculosis can be a potent immunomodulator for F1 and LcrV containing vaccine candidates against plague.
Author Summary
Efforts are in progress by various scientific groups towards the development of plague vaccines. However, lack of better understanding about the Y. pestis infection mechanisms and pathogenesis prevents the development of an effective vaccine. In our effort to develop a more efficacious plague vaccine, we evaluated the role of HSP70 (domain II) of M. tuberculosis in formulation with the F1 and LcrV subunits of Y. pestis vaccine candidates. It is well documented that the F1 and LcrV alone does not always provide complete protection whereas a mixture of the F1+LcrV provides 100% protection in mouse model but poorly protect African green monkey models. In this study, LcrV provided 100% protection in formulation with HSP70(II) whereas LcrV alone could provide only 75% protection in Y. pestis challenged mice. Two another combinations i.e., F1+LcrV and F1+LcrV+HSP70(II) also provided 100% protection whereas HSP70(II) or F1 alone failed to protect. HSP70(II) also modulated cellular immune response as the significantly elevated levels of IL-2, IFN-γ, TNF-α and IFN-γ secreting CD4+/CD8+ T cells were noticed in spleen of F1+LcrV+HSP70(II) group in comparison to the F1+LcrV group. These findings describe the role of HSP70(II) and propose future perspectives for development of new generation plague vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4256173  PMID: 25474358
15.  Adenovirus-Mediated Delivery of an Anti-V Antigen Monoclonal Antibody Protects Mice against a Lethal Yersinia pestis Challenge▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(4):1561-1568.
Pneumonic plague, caused by inhalation of Yersinia pestis, represents a major bioterrorism threat for which no vaccine is available. Based on the knowledge that genetic delivery of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) with adenovirus (Ad) gene transfer vectors results in rapid, high-level antibody expression, we evaluated the hypothesis that Ad-mediated delivery of a neutralizing antibody directed against the Y. pestis V antigen would protect mice against a Y. pestis challenge. MAbs specific for the Y. pestis V antigen were generated, and the most effective in protecting mice against a lethal intranasal Y. pestis challenge was chosen for further study. The coding sequences for the heavy and light chains were isolated from the corresponding hybridoma and inserted into a replication-defective serotype 5 human Ad gene transfer vector (AdαV). Western analysis of AdαV-infected cell supernatants demonstrated completely assembled antibodies reactive with V antigen. Following AdαV administration to mice, high levels of anti-V antigen antibody titers were detectable as early as 1 day postadministration, peaked by day 3, and remained detectable through a 12-week time course. When animals that received AdαV were challenged with Y. pestis at day 4 post-AdαV administration, 80% of the animals were protected, while 0% of control animals survived (P < 0.01). Ad-mediated delivery of a V antigen-neutralizing antibody is an effective therapy against plague in experimental animals and could be developed as a rapidly acting antiplague therapeutic.
PMCID: PMC2663162  PMID: 19124600
16.  Immune defense against pneumonic plague 
Immunological reviews  2008;225:256-271.
Yersinia pestis is one of the world's most virulent human pathogens. Inhalation of this Gram-negative bacterium causes pneumonic plague, a rapidly progressing and usually fatal disease. Extensively antibiotic-resistant strains of Y. pestis exist and have significant potential for exploitation as agents of terrorism and biowarfare. Subunit vaccines comprised of the Y. pestis F1 and LcrV proteins are well-tolerated and immunogenic in humans but cannot be tested for efficacy, because pneumonic plague outbreaks are uncommon and intentional infection of humans is unethical. In animal models, F1/LcrV-based vaccines protect mice and cynomolgus macaques but have failed, thus far, to adequately protect African green monkeys. We lack an explanation for this inconsistent efficacy. We also lack reliable correlate assays for protective immunity. These deficiencies are hampering efforts to improve vaccine efficacy. Here, I review the immunology of pneumonic plague, focusing on evidence that humoral and cellular defense mechanisms collaborate to defend against pulmonary Y. pestis infection.
PMCID: PMC2804960  PMID: 18837787
Yersinia pestis; phagocytes; neutrophils; macrophages; antibodies; humoral immunity; cellular immunity; vaccine
17.  Development of Live-Attenuated Arenavirus Vaccines Based on Codon Deoptimization 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(7):3523-3533.
Arenaviruses have a significant impact on public health and pose a credible biodefense threat, but the development of safe and effective arenavirus vaccines has remained elusive, and currently, no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-licensed arenavirus vaccines are available. Here, we explored the use of a codon deoptimization (CD)-based approach as a novel strategy to develop live-attenuated arenavirus vaccines. We recoded the nucleoprotein (NP) of the prototypic arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) with the least frequently used codons in mammalian cells, which caused lower LCMV NP expression levels in transfected cells that correlated with decreased NP activity in cell-based functional assays. We used reverse-genetics approaches to rescue a battery of recombinant LCMVs (rLCMVs) encoding CD NPs (rLCMV/NPCD) that showed attenuated growth kinetics in vitro. Moreover, experiments using the well-characterized mouse model of LCMV infection revealed that rLCMV/NPCD1 and rLCMV/NPCD2 were highly attenuated in vivo but, upon a single immunization, conferred complete protection against a subsequent lethal challenge with wild-type (WT) recombinant LCMV (rLCMV/WT). Both rLCMV/NPCD1 and rLCMV/NPCD2 were genetically and phenotypically stable during serial passages in FDA vaccine-approved Vero cells. These results provide proof of concept of the safety, efficacy, and stability of a CD-based approach for developing live-attenuated vaccine candidates against human-pathogenic arenaviruses.
IMPORTANCE Several arenaviruses cause severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and pose a credible bioterrorism threat. Currently, no FDA-licensed vaccines are available to combat arenavirus infections, while antiarenaviral therapy is limited to the off-label use of ribavirin, which is only partially effective and is associated with side effects. Here, we describe the generation of recombinant versions of the prototypic arenavirus LCMV encoding codon-deoptimized viral nucleoproteins (rLCMV/NPCD). We identified rLCMV/NPCD1 and rLCMV/NPCD2 to be highly attenuated in vivo but able to confer protection against a subsequent lethal challenge with wild-type LCMV. These viruses displayed an attenuated phenotype during serial amplification passages in cultured cells. Our findings support the use of this approach for the development of safe, stable, and protective live-attenuated arenavirus vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4403387  PMID: 25589652
18.  Protective Immunity in Mice Achieved with Dry Powder Formulation and Alternative Delivery of Plague F1-V Vaccine▿  
The potential use of Yersinia pestis as a bioterror agent is a great concern. Development of a stable powder vaccine against Y. pestis and administration of the vaccine by minimally invasive methods could provide an alternative to the traditional liquid formulation and intramuscular injection. We evaluated a spray-freeze-dried powder vaccine containing a recombinant F1-V fusion protein of Y. pestis for vaccination against plaque in a mouse model. Mice were immunized with reconstituted spray-freeze-dried F1-V powder via intramuscular injection, microneedle-based intradermal delivery, or noninvasive intranasal administration. By intramuscular injection, the reconstituted powder induced serum antibody responses and provided protection against lethal subcutaneous challenge with 1,000 50% lethal doses of Y. pestis at levels equivalent to those elicited by unprocessed liquid formulations (70 to 90% protection). The feasibility of intradermal and intranasal delivery of reconstituted powder F1-V vaccine was also demonstrated. Overall, microneedle-based intradermal delivery was shown to be similar in efficacy to intramuscular injection, while intranasal administration required an extra dose of vaccine to achieve similar protection. In addition, the results suggest that seroconversion against F1 may be a better predictor of protection against Y. pestis challenge than seroconversion against either F1-V or V. In summary, we demonstrate the preclinical feasibility of using a reconstituted powder F1-V formulation and microneedle-based intradermal delivery to provide protective immunity against plague in a mouse model. Intranasal delivery, while feasible, was less effective than injection in this study. The potential use of these alternative delivery methods and a powder vaccine formulation may result in substantial health and economic benefits.
PMCID: PMC2681576  PMID: 19261773
19.  Efficacy and safety of a modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vectored plague vaccine in mice 
Vaccine  2010;28(36):5891-5899.
The efficacy and safety of plague vaccines based on the modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) viral vector was evaluated. MVA recombinants were constructed expressing Yersinia pestis antigens under the translational control of the encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) and/or fused to the tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) secretory signal. A MVA/Y. pestis recombinant that expressed a truncated version of the low-calcium response V antigen (MVA/IRES/tPA/V307), conferred significant protection (87.5%–100%) against intranasal or intraperitoneal challenge with CO92 (encapsulated) or Java 9 (non-encapsulated) strains of Y pestis, respectively. In contrast, a MVA/Y. pestis recombinant that expressed the full-length V antigen provided only 37.5% protection against challenge with CO92 or Java 9 strains, respectively. Interestingly, a MVA/Y. pestis recombinant that expressed the capsular protein (F1) did not elicit significant antibody titers but still conferred 50% and 25% protection against CO92 or Java 9 challenge, respectively. The MVA/Y. pestis recombinant viruses did not demonstrate any mortality or morbidity in SCID mice. Based on their safety and efficacy in mice, these MVA/Y. pestis recombinants are candidates for further development as biodefense and public health vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3560410  PMID: 20638759
20.  Characterization of Botulinum Neurotoxin Type A Neutralizing Monoclonal Antibodies and Influence of Their Half-Lives on Therapeutic Activity 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12416.
Botulinum toxins, i.e. BoNT/A to/G, include the most toxic substances known. Since botulism is a potentially fatal neuroparalytic disease with possible use as a biowarfare weapon (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention category A bioterrorism agent), intensive efforts are being made to develop vaccines or neutralizing antibodies. The use of active fragments from non-human immunoglobulins (F(ab')2, Fab', scFv), chemically modified or not, may avoid side effects, but also largely modify the in vivo half-life and effectiveness of these reagents. We evaluated the neutralizing activity of several monoclonal anti-BoNT/A antibodies (mAbs). F(ab')2 fragments, native or treated with polyethyleneglycol (PEG), were prepared from selected mAbs to determine their half-life and neutralizing activity as compared with the initial mAbs. We compared the protective efficiency of the different biochemical forms of anti-toxin mAbs providing the same neutralizing activity. Among fourteen tested mAbs, twelve exhibited neutralizing activity. Fragments from two of the best mAbs (TA12 and TA17), recognizing different epitopes, were produced. These two mAbs neutralized the A1 subtype of the toxin more efficiently than the A2 or A3 subtypes. Since mAb TA12 and its fragments both exhibited the greatest neutralizing activity, they were further evaluated in the therapeutic experiments. These showed that, in a mouse model, a 2- to 4-h interval between toxin and antitoxin injection allows the treatment to remain effective, but also suggested an absence of correlation between the half-life of the antitoxins and the length of time before treatment after botulinum toxin A contamination. These experiments demonstrate that PEG treatment has a strong impact on the half-life of the fragments, without affecting the effectiveness of neutralization, which was maintained after preparation of the fragments. These reagents may be useful for rapid treatment after botulinum toxin A contamination.
PMCID: PMC2928723  PMID: 20865035
21.  Report from the field 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2013;9(7):1555-1557.
The Sixth Annual Vaccine Renaissance Conference, hosted by the Institute for Immunology and Informatics (iCubed) at the University of Rhode Island (URI), took place on October 15–17, 2012. This conference provides a forum for the review of current progress in the discovery and development of vaccines, and creates an environment for the exchange of ideas. Dr. Joel McCleary opened the conference with a warning about the importance of preparing for well-defined biowarfare threats, including tularemia and Staphylococcal enterotoxin B. Following the keynote address, sessions explored biodefense and preparation for pandemic and biowarfare threats; vaccines for emerging and re-emerging neglected tropical diseases; animal vaccines and human health; and vaccine vectors and the human microbiome. In this issue of Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, seven Vaccine Renaissance Conference speakers will showcase their work; here, we describe a few of the conference highlights.
PMCID: PMC3974885  PMID: 23732897
vaccines; immunoinformatics; biodefense; emerging infectious diseases; neglected tropical diseases; animal vaccines; vaccine design; T cell epitope; immunomodulation
22.  Frequency of Adverse Events after Vaccination with Different Vaccinia Strains 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e272.
Large quantities of smallpox vaccine have been stockpiled to protect entire nations against a possible reintroduction of smallpox. Planning for an appropriate use of these stockpiled vaccines in response to a smallpox outbreak requires a rational assessment of the risks of vaccination-related adverse events, compared to the risk of contracting an infection. Although considerable effort has been made to understand the dynamics of smallpox transmission in modern societies, little attention has been paid to estimating the frequency of adverse events due to smallpox vaccination. Studies exploring the consequences of smallpox vaccination strategies have commonly used a frequency of approximately one death per million vaccinations, which is based on a study of vaccination with the New York City Board of Health (NYCBH) strain of vaccinia virus. However, a multitude of historical studies of smallpox vaccination with other vaccinia strains suggest that there are strain-related differences in the frequency of adverse events after vaccination. Because many countries have stockpiled vaccine based on the Lister strain of vaccinia virus, a quantitative evaluation of the adverse effects of such vaccines is essential for emergency response planning. We conducted a systematic review and statistical analysis of historical data concerning vaccination against smallpox with different strains of vaccinia virus.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed historical vaccination data extracted from the literature. We extracted data on the frequency of postvaccinal encephalitis and death with respect to vaccinia strain and age of vaccinees. Using a hierarchical Bayesian approach for meta-analysis, we estimated the expected frequencies of postvaccinal encephalitis and death with respect to age at vaccination for smallpox vaccines based on the NYCBH and Lister vaccinia strains. We found large heterogeneity between findings from different studies and a time-period effect that showed decreasing incidences of adverse events over several decades. To estimate death rates, we then restricted our analysis to more-recent studies. We estimated that vaccination with the NYCBH strain leads to an average of 1.4 deaths per million vaccinations (95% credible interval, 0–6) and that vaccination with Lister vaccine leads to an average of 8.4 deaths per million vaccinations (95% credible interval, 0–31). We combined age-dependent estimates of the frequency of death after vaccination and revaccination with demographic data to obtain estimates of the expected number of deaths in present societies due to vaccination with the NYCBH and Lister vaccinia strains.
Previous analyses of smallpox vaccination policies, which rely on the commonly assumed value of one death per million vaccinations, may give serious underestimates of the number of deaths resulting from vaccination. Moreover, because there are large, strain-dependent differences in the frequency of adverse events due to smallpox vaccination, it is difficult to extrapolate from predictions for the NYCBH-derived vaccines (stockpiled in countries such as the US) to predictions for the Lister-derived vaccines (stockpiled in countries such as Germany). In planning for an effective response to a possible smallpox outbreak, public-health decision makers should reconsider their strategies of when to opt for ring vaccination and when to opt for mass vaccination.
Analysis of historical data for adverse events suggests that the commonly assumed number of one death per million vaccinations is inaccurate. Large differences between different vaccinia strains used should be taken into account when mass vaccinations are considered.
Editors' Summary
For thousands of years, smallpox was one of the world's most-feared diseases. This contagious disease, caused by the variola virus, historically killed about 30 percent of the people it infected. Over the centuries, it probably killed more people than all other infectious diseases combined, but it was also the first disease to be prevented by vaccination. In 1796, the English physician Edward Jenner rubbed pus from the spots of a milkmaid with cowpox into scratches on a young boy's arm; according to folklore, people who caught cowpox, a related but mild disease of cows, were protected against smallpox. Six weeks later, after a mild bout of cowpox, when the boy was challenged with pus from a smallpox patient, he did not develop smallpox. This vaccination procedure was later refined so that people were inoculated with pure preparations of live vaccinia virus, which is closely related to the smallpox and cowpox viruses, and by 1979 a global vaccination campaign had totally eradicated the disease.
Why Was This Study Done?
Smallpox vaccination has some adverse effects. In particular, vaccinia virus occasionally infects the brain. This so-called post-vaccination encephalitis can cause permanent brain damage and, it has been estimated, kills one vaccinee in every million. Consequently, as smallpox became rarer, the dangers of vaccination began to outweigh its benefits. Routine smallpox vaccination stopped in the US in 1972, and in 1980 the World Health Organization recommended that all countries stop vaccination. Now, however, there are fears that smallpox may be used for bioterrorism. If this did happen, exposed individuals and their contacts, possibly even whole populations, would have to be vaccinated as quickly as possible (very few people now have strong immunity to smallpox). Many countries have stockpiles of smallpox vaccines for this eventuality, but these contain different vaccinia virus strains. In this study, the researchers examined historical data to discover whether these strains differ in their potential to cause encephalitis and death. This information should help public-health officials plan their vaccination strategies in response to a bioterrorism attack with smallpox.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected data from published studies on smallpox vaccination and adverse events from several countries from the late 1950s onwards. They then used these data to extrapolate how often the different vaccinia strains might cause encephalitis and death if they were used today in vaccination programs. They estimate that vaccinating with the New York City Board of Health (NYCBH) strain, which is stockpiled in the US, might cause 2.9 cases of post-vaccination encephalitis and 1.4 deaths per million vaccinated individuals. In contrast, the Lister strain, which is stockpiled in many European countries, might cause 26.2 cases of post-vaccination encephalitis and 2.5 deaths per million vaccinees. For both strains, vaccination of children younger than 1 year old would cause the highest death rate, and individuals being re-vaccinated would be less likely to die than those being vaccinated for the first time. Finally, the researchers use their figures to estimate that about ten people would die if mass vaccination with the NYCBH strain were used in the Netherlands (population 16 million), whereas 55 people would die if the Lister strain were used.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The data used in this study are of variable quality, so the figures calculated by the researchers are only estimates. For instance, given the scatter of the original data, mass vaccination in the Netherlands with the Lister strain might cause anywhere between seven and nearly 200 deaths. However, the study clearly suggests that more serious adverse events would occur after vaccination with the Lister strain than after vaccination with the NYCBH strain. It also indicates that even in the US, where the NYCBH vaccine strain is stockpiled, previous analyses of the effects of vaccination in response to a bioterrorist attack have probably underestimated how many people might die from post-vaccination encephalitis. Public-health decision makers should incorporate these new estimates into their planning for a smallpox outbreak. These increased estimates of adverse events after vaccination might, for example, make mass vaccination with the Lister strain of vaccinia virus less acceptable. Instead, public-health officials might decide to rely on vaccination of only the people directly exposed to released smallpox virus and their close contacts (ring vaccination) to contain a smallpox outbreak.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
World Health Organization, information on smallpox and preparedness in the event of a smallpox outbreak
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on smallpox
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, patient fact sheet on smallpox
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, information for patients and professionals on smallpox
Wikipedia page on smallpox (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Wellcome Library MedHist, links to information on the history of smallpox vaccination
PMCID: PMC1551910  PMID: 16933957
23.  An Objective Approach for Burkholderia pseudomallei Strain Selection as Challenge Material for Medical Countermeasures Efficacy Testing 
Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis, a rare disease of biodefense concern with high mortality and extreme difficulty in treatment. No human vaccines are available that protect against B. pseudomallei infection, and with the current limitations of antibiotic treatment, the development of new preventative and therapeutic interventions is crucial. Although clinical trials could be used to test the efficacy of new medical countermeasures (MCMs), the high mortality rates associated with melioidosis raises significant ethical issues concerning treating individuals with new compounds with unknown efficacies. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has formulated a set of guidelines for the licensure of new MCMs to treat diseases in which it would be unethical to test the efficacy of these drugs in humans. The FDA “Animal Rule” 21 CFR 314 calls for consistent, well-characterized B. pseudomallei strains to be used as challenge material in animal models. In order to facilitate the efficacy testing of new MCMs for melioidosis using animal models, we intend to develop a well-characterized panel of strains for use. This panel will comprise of strains that were isolated from human cases, have a low passage history, are virulent in animal models, and are well-characterized phenotypically and genotypically. We have reviewed published and unpublished data on various B. pseudomallei strains to establish an objective method for selecting the strains to be included in the panel of B. pseudomallei strains with attention to five categories: animal infection models, genetic characterization, clinical and passage history, and availability of the strain to the research community. We identified 109 strains with data in at least one of the five categories, scored each strain based on the gathered data and identified six strains as candidate for a B. pseudomallei strain panel.
PMCID: PMC3458228  PMID: 23057010
pseudomallei; aerosol; biodefense; animal models; virulence; genome; sequencing; passage history
24.  Implications of the licensure of a partially efficacious malaria vaccine on evaluating second-generation vaccines 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:232.
Malaria is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, with approximately 225 million clinical episodes and >1.2 million deaths annually attributed to malaria. Development of a highly efficacious malaria vaccine will offer unparalleled possibilities for disease prevention and remains a key priority for long-term malaria control and elimination.
The Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap’s goal is to 'develop and license a first-generation malaria vaccine that has protective efficacy of more than 50%’. To date, malaria vaccine candidates have only been shown to be partially efficacious (approximately 30% to 60%). However, licensure of a partially effective vaccine will create a number of challenges for the development and progression of new, potentially more efficacious, malaria vaccines in the future. In this opinion piece we discuss the methodological, logistical and ethical issues that may impact on the feasibility and implementation of superiority, non-inferiority and equivalence trials to assess second generation malaria vaccines in the advent of the licensure of a partially efficacious malaria vaccine.
Selecting which new malaria vaccines go forward, and defining appropriate methodology for assessment in logistically challenging clinical trials, is crucial. It is imperative that the scientific community considers all the issues and starts planning how second-generation malaria vaccines will advance in the advent of licensure of a partially effective vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4225678  PMID: 24228861
Malaria; Vaccine; Clinical trials
25.  DNA vaccines targeting heavy chain C-terminal fragments of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin serotypes A, B, and E induce potent humoral and cellular immunity and provide protection from lethal toxin challenge 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2015;11(8):1961-1971.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are deadly, toxic proteins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum that can cause significant diseases in humans. The use of the toxic substances as potential bioweapons has raised concerns by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Military. Currently, there is no licensed vaccine to prevent botulinum intoxication. Here we present an immunogenicity study to evaluate the efficacy of novel monovalent vaccines and a trivalent cocktail DNA vaccine targeting the heavy chain C-terminal fragments of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin serotypes A, B, and E. These synthetic DNA vaccines induced robust humoral and polyfunctional CD4+ T-cell responses which fully protected animals against lethal challenge after just 2 immunizations. In addition, naïve animals administered immunized sera mixed with the lethal neurotoxin were 100% protected against intoxication. The data demonstrate the protective efficacy induced by a combinative synthetic DNA vaccine approach. This study has importance for the development of vaccines that provide protective immunity against C. botulinum neurotoxins and other toxins.
PMCID: PMC4635847  PMID: 26158319
Botulinum toxins; DNA vaccines; immunity; neurotoxin; vaccines

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