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.
antibody; anthrax; plague; smallpox; botulism; tularemia; brucellosis; hemorrhagic; ricin; SEB
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.
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.
pseudomallei; aerosol; biodefense; animal models; virulence; genome; sequencing; passage history
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.
Yersinia pestis; phagocytes; neutrophils; macrophages; antibodies; humoral immunity; cellular immunity; 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.
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.
There is a need to develop effective countermeasures for Yersinia pestis, the etiologic agent of plague and a potential bioterrorism agent. Salmonella and Shigella spp. deleted in the guaBA genes involved in guanine biosynthesis have been shown to be attenuated in vivo. In this study, we sought to determine whether deletion of the guaBA operon would render Y. pestis auxotrophic for guanine and avirulent; such a strain could serve as a live attenuated plague vaccine candidate. A Y. pestis guaBA mutant was generated by specific deletion of a segment of the guaBA operon, producing a guanine auxotroph that was highly attenuated in a mouse model of Y. pestis infection. Furthermore, mice vaccinated with a single dose of 7×104 CFU via the intravenous route were fully protected against subsequent lethal challenge with the Y. pestis parental strain. These findings identify guaBA as a target for deletion to generate a live attenuated plague vaccine.
Yersinia pestis; plague; guanine; mutant; live attenuated vaccines
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.
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.
A recombinant vaccine (rF1V) is being developed for protection against pneumonic plague. This study was performed to address essential data elements to establish a well-characterized Swiss Webster mouse model for licensing the rF1V vaccine using the FDA's Animal Rule. These elements include the documentation of challenge material characteristics, aerosol exposure parameters, details of the onset and severity of clinical signs, pathophysiological response to disease, and relevance to human disease. Prior to animal exposures, an evaluation of the aerosol system was performed to determine and understand the variability of the aerosol exposure system. Standardized procedures for the preparation of Yersinia pestis challenge material also were developed. The 50% lethal dose (LD50) was estimated to be 1,966 CFU using Probit analysis. Following the LD50 determination, pathology was evaluated by exposing mice to a target LD99 (42,890 CFU). Mice were euthanized at 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, and 72 h postexposure. At each time point, samples were collected for clinical pathology, detection of bacteria in blood and tissues, and pathology evaluations. A general increase in incidence and severity of microscopic findings was observed in the lung, lymph nodes, spleen, and liver from 36 to 72 h postchallenge. Similarly, the incidence and severity of pneumonia increased throughout the study; however, some mice died in the absence of pneumonia, suggesting that disease progression does not require the development of pneumonia. Disease pathology in the Swiss Webster mouse is similar to that observed in humans, demonstrating the utility of this pneumonic plague model that can be used by researchers investigating plague countermeasures.
Yersinia pestis is the causative agent of plague and a potential agent of bioterrorism and biowarfare. The plague biothreat and the emergence of multidrug-resistant plague underscore the need to increase our understanding of the intrinsic potential of Y. pestis for developing antimicrobial resistance and to anticipate the mechanisms of resistance that may emerge in Y. pestis. Identification of Y. pestis genes that, when overexpressed, are capable of reducing antibiotic susceptibility is a useful strategy to expose genes that this pathogen may rely upon to evolve antibiotic resistance via a vertical modality. In this study, we explored the use of a multicopy suppressor, Escherichia coli host-based screening approach as a means to expose antibiotic resistance determinant candidates in Y. pestis.
We constructed a multicopy plasmid-based, Y. pestis genome-wide expression library of nearly 16,000 clones in E. coli and screened the library for suppressors of the antimicrobial activity of ofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. The screen permitted the identification of a transcriptional regulator-encoding gene (robAYp) that increased the MIC99 of ofloxacin by 23-fold when overexpressed from a multicopy plasmid in Y. pestis. Additionally, we found that robAYp overexpression in Y. pestis conferred low-level resistance to many other antibiotics and increased organic solvent tolerance. Overexpression of robAYp also upregulated the expression of several efflux pumps in Y. pestis.
Our study provides proof of principle for the use of multicopy suppressor screening based on the tractable and easy-to-manipulate E. coli host as a means to identify antibiotic resistance determinant candidates of Y. pestis.
The identification of Yersinia pestis as a potential bioterrorism agent and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains have highlighted the need for improved vaccines and treatments for plague. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential for ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter proteins to be exploited as novel vaccines against plague. Western blotting of ABC transporter proteins using sera from rabbits immunized with killed whole Y. pestis cells or human convalescent-phase sera identified four immunologically reactive proteins: OppA, PstS, YrbD, and PiuA. Mice immunized with these proteins developed antibody to the immunogen. When the immunized mice were challenged with Y. pestis, the OppA-immunized mice showed an increased time to death compared to other groups, and protection appeared to correlate with the level of immunoglobulin G antibody to OppA.
Presently there is a significant effort to develop and evaluate vaccines and antibiotics against the potential bioterrorism agent Yersinia pestis. The animal models used to test these countermeasures involve the deposition of small particles within the lung. However, deliberate aerosol release of Y. pestis will generate both small and large inhalable particles. We report in this study that the pathogenesis patterns of plague infections caused by the deposition of 1- and 12-μm-particle aerosols of Y. pestis in the lower and upper respiratory tracts (URTs) of mice are different. The median lethal dose for 12-μm particles was 4.9-fold greater than that for 1-μm particles. The 12-μm-particle infection resulted in the degradation of the nasal mucosa and nasal-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT) plus cervical lymphadenopathy prior to bacteremic dissemination. Lung involvement was limited to secondary pneumonia. In contrast, the 1-μm-particle infection resulted in primary pneumonia; in 40% of mice, the involvement of NALT and cervical lymphadenopathy were observed, indicating entry via both URT lymphoid tissues and lungs. Despite bacterial deposition in the gastrointestinal tract, the involvement of Peyer's patches was not observed in either infection. Although there were major differences in pathogenesis, the recombinant F1 and V antigen vaccine and ciprofloxacin protected against plague infections caused by small- and large-particle aerosols.
Inhalation of Yersinia pestis causes pneumonic plague, which rapidly progresses to death. A previously licensed killed whole-cell vaccine is presently unavailable due to its reactogenicity and inconclusive evidence of efficacy. The present study now shows that vaccination intranasally (i.n.) with inactivated Y. pestis CO92 (iYp) adjuvanted with interleukin-12 (IL-12) followed by an i.n. challenge with a lethal dose of Y. pestis CO92 prevented bacterial colonization and protected 100% of mice from pneumonic plague. Survival of the vaccinated mice correlated with levels of systemic and lung antibodies, reduced pulmonary pathology and proinflammatory cytokines, and the presence of lung lymphoid cell aggregates. Protection against pneumonic plague was partially dependent upon Fc receptors and could be transferred to naïve mice with immune mouse serum. On the other hand, protection was not dependent upon complement, and following vaccination, depletion of CD4 and/or CD8 T cells before challenge did not affect survival. In summary, the results demonstrate the safety, immunogenicity, and protective efficacy of i.n. administered iYp plus IL-12 in a mouse model of pneumonic plague.
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.
The botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are a large family of extremely potent, neuroparalytic, dichain proteins which act at the peripheral nervous system. The wide genetic diversity observed with this neurotoxin family poses a significant challenge for the development of an effective botulinum vaccine. The present study describes a vaccine development platform based on protein fragments representing the N-terminal two-thirds of each toxin molecule. These fragments, designated LHN, comprise the light chain and translocation domains of each neurotoxin and are devoid of any neuron-binding activity. Using codon-optimized genes, LHN fragments derived from BoNT serotypes A and B were expressed in Escherichia coli in high yield with >1 g of purified, soluble fragment recoverable from 4.5 liter-scale fermentations. The protective efficacy of LHN/A was significantly enhanced by treatment with formaldehyde, which induced intramolecular cross-linking but virtually no aggregation of the fragment. A single immunization of the modified fragment protected mice from challenge with a 103 50% lethal dose (LD50) of BoNT/A1 with an 50% effective dose (ED50) of 50 ng of the vaccine. In similar experiments, the LHN/A vaccine was shown to protect mice against challenge with BoNT/A subtypes A1, A2, and A3, which is the first demonstration of single-dose protection by a vaccine against the principal toxin subtypes of BoNT/A. The LHN/B vaccine was also highly efficacious, giving an ED50 of ∼140 ng to a challenge of 103 LD50 of BoNT/B1. In addition, LHN/B provided single-dose protection in mice against BoNT/B4 (nonproteolytic toxin subtype).
The intentional use of Bacillus anthracis, the etiological agent of anthrax, as a bioterrorist weapon in late 2001 made our society acutely aware of the importance of developing, testing, and stockpiling adequate countermeasures against biological attacks. Biodefense vaccines are an important component of our arsenal to be used during a biological attack. However, most of the agents considered significant threats either have been eradicated or rarely infect humans alive today. As such, vaccine efficacy cannot be determined in human clinical trials but must be extrapolated from experimental animal models. This article reviews the efficacy and immunogenicity of human anthrax vaccines in well-defined animal models and the progress toward developing a rugged immunologic correlate of protection. The ongoing evaluation of human anthrax vaccines will be dependent on animal efficacy data in the absence of human efficacy data for licensure by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Vaccination with live attenuated Yersinia pestis confers protection against pneumonic plague but is not considered safe for general use. Subunit plague vaccines containing the Y. pestis F1 and LcrV proteins prime robust antibody responses but may not provide sufficient protection. To aid the development of a safe and effective plague vaccine, we are investigating roles for T cells during defense against Y. pestis infection. Here we demonstrate that vaccination of mice with live Y. pestis primes specific CD4 and CD8 T cells that, upon purification and direct transfer to naïve mice, synergistically protect against lethal intranasal Y. pestis challenge. While not preventing extrapulmonary dissemination, the coadministered T cells promote bacterial clearance and reduce bacteremia. These observations strongly suggest that development of pneumonic plague vaccines should strive to prime both CD4 and CD8 T cells. Finally, we demonstrate that vaccination with live Y. pestis primes CD4 and CD8 T cells that respond to Y. pestis strains lacking the capacity to express F1, LcrV, and all pCD1/pPCP-encoded proteins, suggesting that protective T cells likely recognize antigens distinct from those previously defined as targets for humoral immunity.
Francisella tularensis, the etiologic agent of tularemia, can cause severe and fatal infection after inhalation of as few as 10-100 CFU. F. tularensis is a potential bioterrorism agent and, therefore, a priority for countermeasure development. Vaccination with the live vaccine strain (LVS), developed from a Type B strain, confers partial protection against aerosal exposure to the more virulent Type A strains and provides proof of principle that a live attenuated vaccine strain may be efficacious. However LVS suffers from several notable drawbacks that have prevented its licensure and widespread use. To address the specific deficiencies that render LVS a sub-optimal tularemia vaccine, we engineered F. tularensis LVS strains with targeted deletions in the guaA or guaB genes that encode critical enzymes in the guanine nucleotide biosynthetic pathway. F. tularensis LVSΔguaA and LVSΔguaB mutants were guanine auxotrophs and were highly attenuated in a mouse model of infection. While the mutants failed to replicate in macrophages, a robust proinflammatory cytokine response, equivalent to that of the parental LVS, was elicited. Mice vaccinated with a single dose of the F. tularensis LVSΔguaA or LVSΔguaB mutant were fully protected against subsequent lethal challenge with the LVS parental strain. These findings suggest the specific deletion of these target genes could generate a safe and efficacious live attenuated vaccine.
A completely synthetic gene encoding fragment C, a approximately 50-kDa fragment, of botulinum neurotoxin serotype A was constructed from oligonucleotides. The gene was expressed in Escherichia coli, and full-sized product was produced as judged by Western blot (immunoblot) analysis. Crude extracts of E. coli expressing the gene were used to vaccinate mice and evaluate their survival against challenge with active toxin. Mice given three subcutaneous vaccinations were protected against an intraperitoneal administration of 10(6) 50% lethal doses (ID50) of serotype A toxin. The same mice survived when challenged with 3 LD50 of botulinum toxin serotype E but died when challenged with 10 LD50 of serotype E or 3 LD50 of serotype B. Purified fragment C was compared with the botulinum toxoid vaccine in a vaccination and challenge study. Fragment C was as efficacious in protecting against challenge with active botulinum neurotoxin serotype A as the toxoid vaccine. This recombinant protein product has many properties that make it a good candidate for human use to protect against botulinum toxin.
Pulmonary infection by Yersinia pestis causes pneumonic plague, a rapidly progressing and often fatal disease. To aid the development of safe and effective pneumonic plague vaccines, we are deciphering mechanisms used by the immune system to protect against lethal pulmonary Y. pestis infection. In murine pneumonic plague models, passive transfer of convalescent-phase sera confers protection, as does active vaccination with live Y. pestis. Here, we demonstrate that protection by either protocol relies upon both gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) cytokines classically associated with type 1 cellular immunity. In both protocols, abrogating IFN-γ or TNF-α activity significantly decreases survival and increases the bacterial burden in pulmonary, splenic, and hepatic tissues. Neutralization of either cytokine also counteracts challenge-induced, vaccination-dependent upregulation of nitric oxide synthase 2 (NOS2). Moreover, genetic depletion of NOS2 suppresses protection conferred by serotherapy. We conclude that IFN-γ, TNF-α, and NOS2, key elements of cellular immunity, perform critical protective functions during humoral defense against lethal pulmonary Y. pestis challenge. These observations strongly suggest that plague vaccines should strive to maximally prime both cellular and humoral immunity.
Developing vaccines to biothreat agents presents a number of challenges for discovery, preclinical development, and licensure. The need for high containment to work with live agents limits the
amount and types of research that can be done using complete pathogens, and small markets reduce potential returns for industry. However, a number of tools, from comparative pathogenesis of viral strains at the molecular level to novel computational approaches, are being used to understand the basis of viral attenuation and characterize protective immune responses. As the amount of basic molecular knowledge grows, we will be able to take advantage of these tools not only to rationally attenuate virus strains for candidate vaccines, but also to assess immunogenicity and safety in silico. This review discusses how a basic understanding of pathogenesis, allied with systems biology and machine learning methods, can impact biodefense vaccinology.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), proteins secreted by the bacteria genus Clostridium, represent a group of extremely lethal toxins and a potential bioterrorism threat. As the current therapeutic options are of a predominantly prophylactic nature and cannot be used en masse, new strategies and ultimately potential treatments are desperately needed to combat any widespread release of these neurotoxins. In these regards, our laboratory has been working on developing new alternatives to treat botulinum intoxication through the development of inhibitors of the light chain proteases, the etiological agent which causes BoNT intoxication. Such a strategy has required the construction of two high throughput screens and small molecule non-peptidic libraries; excitingly, inhibitors of the BoNT/A protease have been uncovered and are being optimized via structure activity relationship studies.
botulism; botulinum neurotoxin A; botulinum neurotoxin B; light chain metalloprotease; protease inhibitors
A recently reported case of progressive vaccinia (PV) in an immunocompromised patient has refocused attention on this condition. Uniformly fatal prior to the licensure of vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) in 1978, PV was still fatal in about half of VIG-treated patients overall, with a greater mortality rate in infants and children. Additional therapies would be needed in the setting of a smallpox bioterror event, since mass vaccination following any variola virus release would inevitably result in exposure of immunocompromised people through vaccination or contact with vaccinees. Well-characterized animal models of disease can support the licensure of new products when human studies are not ethical or feasible, as in the case of PV. We chose vaccinia virus-scarified SCID mice to model PV. As in immunocompromised humans, vaccinia virus-scarified SCID animals develop enlarging primary lesions with minimal or no inflammation, eventual distal virus spread, and lethal outcomes if left untreated. Postexposure treatment with VIG slowed disease progression, caused local lesion regression, and resulted in the healthy survival of most of the mice for more than 120 days. Combination treatment with VIG and topical cidofovir also resulted in long-term disease-free survival of most of the animals, even when initiated 7 days postinfection. These results support the possibility that combination treatments may be effective in humans and support using this SCID model of PV to test new antibody therapies and combination therapies and to provide further insights into the pathogenesis and treatment of PV.
The botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the most toxic proteins for humans and designated “Category A Select Agents.” The current vaccine against botulism is in limited supply, and there is a need to develop new vaccine strategies. A recombinant BoNT/A toxoid was produced in Clostridium botulinum that contained a double amino acid substitution, R363A Y365F (termed BoNT/ARYM). BoNT/ARYM was noncatalytic for SNAP25 and nontoxic for mice. Immunization with BoNT/ARYM protected mice from challenge at levels that were similar to chemically inactivated BoNT/A toxoid. BoNT/ARYM elicited an immune response against the light-chain and heavy-chain components of the toxin. Neutralizing anti-BoNT/ARYM sera blocked BoNT toxicity in primary cortical neurons and blocked ganglioside binding by the heavy chain. BoNT/ARYM represents a viable vaccine candidate for a holotoxoid against botulism.