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2.  Rotavirus Genotypes and Vaccine Effectiveness from a Sentinel, Hospital-Based, Surveillance Study for Three Consecutive Rotavirus Seasons in Lebanon 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0161345.
Globally, rotavirus (RV) is the leading cause of gastroenteritis (GE) in children. Longitudinal data about changes in RV genotype distribution and vaccine effectiveness (VE) are scarce. This study was conducted in Lebanon over 3 consecutive RV seasons to estimate the rate of RVGE hospitalization, identify RV genotypes, determine the seasonal and geographical variations, and calculate RV VE.
Materials and Methods
This prospective, multicenter, hospital-based surveillance study was conducted between 2011 and 2013 and enrolled children (<5 years) admitted for GE. Socio-demographic and clinical data about the current episode of GE at admission were collected. Genotypes were determined from stool samples testing positive for RV by PCR.
Of 1,414 cases included in the final analysis, 83% were <2 years old and 55.6% were boys. Median duration of hospitalization was 4 days and 91.6% of GE cases were severe (Vesikari score ≥11). PCR testing showed that 30.3% of subjects were RV-positive of which 62.1% had fever versus 71.1% of RV-negative subjects (P = 0.001). RV was predominantly detected in the cold season from November till March (69.9%). G and P genotype pairs for all RV-positive stool specimens showed a predominance of G1P[8] in 36% (n = 154) of specimens, G9P[8] in 26.4% (n = 113), and G2P[4] in 17.8% (n = 76). RV-negative subjects were more likely to be RV-vaccinated (21%) compared to the RV-positive subjects (11.3%) (P<0.001), with a vaccine breakthrough rate of 18.8%. The ratio of RV1-vaccinated for each RV5-vaccinated subject was 7.8 and VE against RV disease was 68.4% (95%CI, 49.6%-80.2%).
RV is a major cause of GE requiring hospitalization of children under 5 years of age in Lebanon. A few genotypes predominated over the three RV seasons studied. Mass RV vaccination will likely decrease the burden of hospitalization due to RV. VE is similar to what has been observed for other middle-income countries.
PMCID: PMC5003350  PMID: 27571515
3.  Issues in pediatric vaccine-preventable diseases in low- to middle-income countries 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2016;12(9):2365-2377.
The highest burden of pediatric vaccine-preventable disease is found in developing nations where resource constraints pose the greatest challenge, impacting disease diagnosis and surveillance as well as the implementation of large scale vaccination programmes. In November 2012, a Working Group Meeting convened in Casablanca to describe and discuss the status with respect to 8 vaccine-preventable diseases (pertussis, pneumococcal disease, measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV), rotavirus and meningococcal meningitis) to identify and consider ways of overcoming obstacles to pediatric vaccine implementation. Experts from Europe, Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia participated in the meeting. A range of region-specific needs and barriers to uptake were discussed. The aim of this article is to provide a summary of the ongoing status with respect to pediatric vaccine preventable disease in the countries represented, and the experts' opinions and recommendations with respect to pediatric vaccine implementation.
PMCID: PMC5027713  PMID: 27322436
barriers; developing countries; Pediatric vaccines; vaccine-preventable disease; vaccine implementation
4.  Full Genome Characterization of Human Influenza A/H3N2 Isolates from Asian Countries Reveals a Rare Amantadine Resistance-Conferring Mutation and Novel PB1-F2 Polymorphisms 
Influenza A viruses evolve at a high rate requiring continuous monitoring to maintain the efficacy of vaccines and antiviral drugs. We performed next generation sequencing analysis of 100 influenza A/H3N2 isolates collected in four Asian countries (Japan, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Vietnam) during 2012–2015. Phylogenetic analysis revealed several reassortment events leading to the circulation of multiple clades within the same season. This was particularly evident during the 2013 and 2013/2014 seasons. Importantly, our data showed that certain lineages appeared to be fitter and were able to persist into the following season. The majority of A/H3N2 viruses continued to harbor the M2-S31N mutation conferring amantadine-resistance. In addition, an S31D mutation in the M2-protein, conferring a similar level of resistance as the S31N mutation, was detected in three isolates obtained in Japan during the 2014/2015 season. None of the isolates possessed the NA-H274Y mutation conferring oseltamivir-resistance, though a few isolates were found to contain mutations at the catalytic residue 151 (D151A/G/N or V) of the NA protein. These variations did not alter the susceptibility to neuraminidase inhibitors and were not detected in the original clinical specimens, suggesting that they had been acquired during their passage in MDCK cells. Novel polymorphisms were detected in the PB1-F2 open-reading frame resulting in truncations in the protein of 24–34 aminoacids in length. Thus, this study has demonstrated the utility of monitoring the full genome of influenza viruses to allow the detection of the potentially fittest lineages. This enhances our ability to predict the strain(s) most likely to persist into the following seasons and predict the potential degree of vaccine match or mismatch with the seasonal influenza season for that year. This will enable the public health and clinical teams to prepare for any related healthcare burden, depending on whether the vaccine match is predicted to be good or poor for that season.
PMCID: PMC4779883  PMID: 27014195
influenza A/H3N2; full-genome; phylogenetic analysis; antiviral; vaccine; evolution; reassortment; PB1-F2
5.  Antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice reduces emphysematous changes and injury secondary to cigarette smoke in an animal model and human alveolar cells 
Cigarette smoke (CS) increases oxidative stress (OS) in the lungs. Pomegranate juice (PJ) possesses potent antioxidant activities, attributed to its polyphenols. This study investigates the effects of PJ on the damaging effects of CS in an animal model and on cultured human alveolar cells (A549).
Male C57BL/6J mice were divided into the following groups: Control, CS, CS + PJ, and PJ. Acute CS exposure was for 3 days, while chronic exposure was for 1 and 3 months (5 days of exposure/week). PJ groups received daily 80 μmol/kg via bottle, while other groups received distilled water. At the end of the experiments, different parameters were studied: 1) expression levels of inflammatory markers, 2) apoptosis, 3) OS, and 4) histopathological changes. In vitro, A549 cells were pretreated for 48 hours with either PJ (0.5 μM) or vehicle. Cells were then exposed to increasing concentrations of CS extracted from collected filters. Cell viability was assessed by counting of live and dead cells with trypan blue staining.
Acutely, a significant increase in interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α expression, apoptosis, and OS was noted in CS when compared to Control. PJ significantly attenuated the expression of inflammatory mediators, apoptosis, and OS. Chronically (at 1 and 3 months), increased expression of TNF-α was observed, and lung sections demonstrated emphysematous changes when compared to Control. PJ supplementation to CS animals attenuated the increased expression of TNF-α and normalized lung cytoarchitecture. At the cellular level, CS extract reduced cellular proliferation and triggered cellular death. Pretreatment with PJ attenuated the damaging effects of CS extract on cultured human alveolar cells.
The expression of inflammatory mediators associated with CS exposure and the emphysematous changes noted with chronic CS exposure were reduced with PJ supplementation. In vitro, PJ attenuated the damaging effects of CS extract on cultured human alveolar cells.
PMCID: PMC4745850  PMID: 26893554
reactive oxygen species; antioxidants; acute lung injury; emphysema; pomegranate extract; cigarette smoke; inflammatory mediators
6.  Broad-spectrum antibodies against self-antigens and cytokines in RAG deficiency 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  null;125(11):4135-4148.
Patients with mutations of the recombination-activating genes (RAG) present with diverse clinical phenotypes, including severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), autoimmunity, and inflammation. However, the incidence and extent of immune dysregulation in RAG-dependent immunodeficiency have not been studied in detail. Here, we have demonstrated that patients with hypomorphic RAG mutations, especially those with delayed-onset combined immune deficiency and granulomatous/autoimmune manifestations (CID-G/AI), produce a broad spectrum of autoantibodies. Neutralizing anti–IFN-α or anti–IFN-ω antibodies were present at detectable levels in patients with CID-G/AI who had a history of severe viral infections. As this autoantibody profile is not observed in a wide range of other primary immunodeficiencies, we hypothesized that recurrent or chronic viral infections may precipitate or aggravate immune dysregulation in RAG-deficient hosts. We repeatedly challenged Rag1S723C/S723C mice, which serve as a model of leaky SCID, with agonists of the virus-recognizing receptors TLR3/MDA5, TLR7/-8, and TLR9 and found that this treatment elicits autoantibody production. Altogether, our data demonstrate that immune dysregulation is an integral aspect of RAG-associated immunodeficiency and indicate that environmental triggers may modulate the phenotypic expression of autoimmune manifestations.
PMCID: PMC4639965  PMID: 26457731
7.  Regulatory T Cell Deficiency and Immune dysregulation, Polyendocrinopathy, Enteropathy, X-Linked-Like Disorder Due to Loss of Function Mutations in LRBA 
A number of heritable immune dysregulatory diseases result from defects affecting T regulatory (TR) cell development and/or function. They include Immune dysregulation, Polyendocrinopathy, Enteropathy, X-Linked (IPEX), due to mutations in FOXP3, and IPEX-like disorders caused by mutations in IL2RA, STAT5b and STAT1. However, the genetic defects underlying many cases of IPEX-like disorders remain unknown.
We sought to identify the genetic abnormalities in subjects with idiopathic IPEX-like disorders.
We performed whole exome and targeted gene sequencing, and phenotypic and functional analyses of TR cells.
A child who presented with an IPEX-like syndrome and severe TR cell deficiency was found to harbor a nonsense mutation in the gene encoding LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA), previously implicated as cause of common variable immunodeficiency with autoimmunity. Analysis of subjects with LRBA deficiency revealed marked TR cell depletion, profoundly decreased expression of canonical TR cell markers, including FOXP3, CD25, Helios, and CTLA4 and impaired TR cell-mediated suppression. There was skewing in favor of memory T cells and intense autoantibody production with marked expansion of T follicular helper and contraction of T follicular regulatory cells. Whereas the frequency of recent thymic emigrants and the differentiation of induced TR cells were normal, LRBA-deficient T cells exhibited increased apoptosis and reduced activities of the metabolic sensors mammalian target of rapamycin 1 and 2 complexes.
LRBA deficiency is a novel cause of IPEX-like syndrome and TR cell deficiency associated with metabolic dysfunction and increased apoptosis of TR cells.
PMCID: PMC4289093  PMID: 25468195
Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity; FOXP3; IPEX; LRBA; mTOR; T Follicular Helper Cells; T Follicular Regulatory Cells; T Regulatory Cells
8.  Assessment of combination therapy in BALB/c mice injected with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae strains 
Monotherapeutic options for carbapenem resistant infections are limited. Studies suggest that combination therapy may be associated with better outcomes than monotherapies. However, this is still controversial. This study assessed, the efficacy of combination therapy against carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae harboring singly various extended spectrum beta lactamase or carbapenemase encoding genes. Thus, four isolates harboring either blaCTXM-15, blaCTXM-15 and blaOXA-48, blaNDM-1, or blaKPC-2 genes were selected for testing. Minimal inhibitory concentration was determined by broth dilution method. Gene transcript levels on single and combined treatments were done in vitro and in vivo by qRT-PCR. Assessment of treatments was done in BALB/c mice according to a specific protocol. As such, the qRT-PCR revealed a significant decrease of transcript levels in all isolates upon using rifampicin or tigecycline, singly or in combination with colistin. However, variable levels were obtained using colistin singly or in combination with meropenem or fosfomycin. In vivo assessment showed that all combinations used were effective against isolates harboring blaCTXM-15, blaOXA-48, and blaNDM-1. Conversely, the most significant combination against the isolate harboring blaKPC-2 gene was colistin with either carbapenem, fosfomycin, or kanamycin. As a conclusion, combination therapy selected based on the type of carbapenemase produced, appeared to be non-toxic and might be effective in BALB/c mice. Therefore, the use of a rationally optimized combination therapy might lead to better results than monotherapy, however, clinical trials are needed for human consumption.
PMCID: PMC4585037  PMID: 26441926
Enterobacteriaceae; carbapenem resistance; carbapenemase; in vivo; combination therapy; gene transcript
9.  Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Depletion in DOCK8 Deficiency: Rescue of Severe Herpetic Infections with Interferon Alpha-2b Therapy 
PMCID: PMC4052613  PMID: 24767873
Acyclovir; DOCK8 deficiency; Herpes simplex virus; IFN-alpha therapy; plasmacytoid dendritic cells
10.  The Novel PKCθ from Benchtop to Clinic 
Journal of Immunology Research  2015;2015:348798.
The protein kinases C (PKCs) are a family of serine/threonine kinases involved in regulating multiple essential cellular processes such as survival, proliferation, and differentiation. Of particular interest is the novel, calcium-independent PKCθ which plays a central role in immune responses. PKCθ shares structural similarities with other PKC family members, mainly consisting of an N-terminal regulatory domain and a C-terminal catalytic domain tethered by a hinge region. This isozyme, however, is unique in that it translocates to the immunological synapse between a T cell and an antigen-presenting cell (APC) upon T cell receptor-peptide MHC recognition. Thereafter, PKCθ interacts physically and functionally with downstream effectors to mediate T cell activation and differentiation, subsequently leading to inflammation. PKCθ-specific perturbations have been identified in several diseases, most notably autoimmune disorders, and hence the modulation of its activity presents an attractive therapeutic intervention. To that end, many inhibitors of PKCs and PKCθ have been developed and tested in preclinical and clinical studies. And although selectivity remains a challenge, results are promising for the future development of effective PKCθ inhibitors that would greatly advance the treatment of several T-cell mediated diseases.
PMCID: PMC4452336  PMID: 26090489
11.  Identification of Several Mutations in ATP2C1 in Lebanese Families: Insight into the Pathogenesis of Hailey-Hailey Disease 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0115530.
Hailey-Hailey disease (HHD) is an inherited blistering dermatosis characterized by recurrent erosions and erythematous plaques that generally manifest in intertriginous areas. Genetically, HHD is an autosomal dominant disease, resulting from heterozygous mutations in ATP2C1, which encodes a Ca2+/Mn2+ATPase. In this study, we aimed at identifying and analyzing mutations in five patients from unrelated families diagnosed with HHD and study the underlying molecular pathogenesis.
To genetically study Lebanese families with HHD, and the underlying molecular pathogenesis of the disease.
We performed DNA sequencing for the coding sequence and exon-intron boundaries of ATP2C1. Heat shock experiments were done on several cell types. This was followed by real-time and western blotting for ATP2C1, caspase 3, and PARP proteins to examine any possible role of apoptosis in HHD. This was followed by TUNEL staining to confirm the western blotting results. We then performed heat shock experiments on neonatal rat primary cardiomyocytes.
Four mutations were detected, three of which were novel and one recurrent mutation in two families. In order for HHD to manifest, it requires both the genetic alteration and the environmental stress, therefore we performed heat shock experiments on fibroblasts (HH and normal) and HaCaT cells, mimicking the environmental factor seen in HHD. It was found that stress stimuli, represented here as temperature stress, leads to an increase in the mRNA and protein levels of ATP2C1 in heat-shocked cells as compared to non-heat shocked ones. However, the increase in ATP2C1 and heat shock protein hsp90 is significantly lower in HH fibroblasts in comparison to normal fibroblasts and HaCaT cells. We did not find a role for apoptosis in the pathogenesis of HHD. A similar approach (heat shock experiments) done on rat cardiomyocytes, led to a significant variation in ATP2C1 transcript and protein levels.
This is the first genetic report of HHD from Lebanon in which we identified three novel mutations in ATP2C1 and shed light on the molecular mechanisms and pathogenesis of HHD by linking stress signals like heat shock to the observed phenotypes. This link was also found in cultured cardiomyocytes suggesting thus a yet uncharacterized cardiac phenotype in HHD patients masked by its in-expressivity in normal health conditions.
PMCID: PMC4319924  PMID: 25658765
12.  Review of meningococcal vaccines with updates on immunization in adults 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2014;10(4):995-1007.
Meningococcal disease is a serious and global life-threatening disease. Six serogroups (A, B, C, W-135, X, and Y) account for the majority of meningococcal disease worldwide. Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines were introduced several decades ago and have led to the decline in the burden of disease. However, polysaccharide vaccines have several limitations, including poor immunogenicity in infants and toddlers, short-lived protection, lack of immunologic memory, negligible impact on nasopharyngeal carriage, and presence of hyporesponsiveness after repeated doses. The chemical conjugation of plain polysaccharide vaccines has the potential to overcome these drawbacks. Meningococcal conjugate vaccines include the quadrivalent vaccines (MenACWY-DT, MenACWY-CRM, and MenACWY-TT) as well as the monovalent A and C vaccines. These conjugate vaccines were shown to elicit strong immune response in adults.
This review addresses the various aspects of meningococcal disease, the limitations posed by polysaccharide vaccines, the different conjugate vaccines with their immunogenicity and reactogenicity in adults, and the current recommendations in adults.
PMCID: PMC4896590  PMID: 24500529
meningococcal conjugate vaccine; adults; meningococcal disease; Neisseria meningitidis; meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine; recommendations
13.  Epidemiology and characteristics of urinary tract infections in children and adolescents 
Background: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common infections in the pediatric population. Over the last two decades, antibiotic resistance is increasing significantly as extended spectrum beta lactamase (ESBL) producing organisms are emerging. The aim of this study is to provide a comprehensive view of the epidemiologic characteristics of UTIs in hospitalized children, examine the risk factors of UTIs caused by ESBL-producing organisms, and determine the resistance patterns in the isolated organisms over the last 10 years.
Methods: Retrospective chart review was conducted at two Lebanese medical centers. Subjects were identified by looking at the following ICD-9 discharge codes: “Urinary tract infection,” “UTI,” “Cystitis,” and/or “Pyelonephritis.” Children less than 18 years of age admitted for UTI between January 1st, 2001 and December 31st, 2011 were included. Cases whose urine culture result did not meet our definition for UTI were excluded. Chi-square, Fisher's exact test, and multivariate logistic regression were used to determine risk factors for ESBL. Linear regression analysis was used to determine resistance patterns.
Results: The study included 675 cases with a median age of 16 months and female predominance of 77.7% (525 cases). Of the 584 cases caused by Escherichia coli or Klebsiella spp, 91 cases (15.5%) were found to be ESBL-producing organisms. Vesico-ureteral reflux and previous antibiotics use were found to be independent risk factors for ESBL-producing E. coli and Klebsiella spp. (p < 0.05). A significant linear increase in resistance to all generations of Cephalosporins (r2 = 0.442) and Fluoroquinolones (r2 = 0.698) was found.
Conclusion: The recognition of risk factors for infection with ESBL-producing organisms and the observation of increasing overall resistance to antibiotics warrant further studies that might probably lead to new recommendations to guide management of UTIs and antibiotic use in children and adolescents.
PMCID: PMC4443253  PMID: 26075187
ESBL; urinary tract infection; risk factors; children; antibiotic resistance
14.  Regulation of De Novo Ceramide Synthesis: The Role of Dihydroceramide Desaturase and Transcriptional Factors NFATC and Hand2 in the Hypoxic Mouse Heart 
DNA and Cell Biology  2013;32(6):310-319.
We have previously shown that ceramide, a proapoptotic molecule decreases in the mouse heart as it adapts to hypoxia. We have also shown that its precursor, dihydroceramide, accumulates with hypoxia. This implicates the enzyme dihydroceramide desaturase (DHC-DS), which converts dihydroceramide to ceramide, in a potential regulatory checkpoint in cardiomyocytes. We hypothesised that the regulation of de novo ceramide synthesis plays an important role in the cardiomyocyte adaptation to hypoxia. We used an established mouse model to induce acute and chronic hypoxia. Cardiac tissues were extracted and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was used to evaluate the expression levels of DHC-DS. Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assays (EMSAs) and qRT-PCR were used to evaluate the activity and expression levels of an array of transcription factors that might regulate DEGS1 gene expression. We demonstrated that DEGS1 mRNA levels decrease with time in hypoxic mice concurrent with the decrease in HAND2 transcripts. Interestingly, the DEGS1 promoter harbors overlapping sites for Hand2 and Nuclear Factor of Activated T-cells (NFATC) transcription factors. We have demonstrated a physical interaction between NFATC1 and the E-Box proteins with EMSA and coimmunoprecipitation assays. The regulation of de novo ceramide synthesis in response to hypoxia and this newly described interaction between E-box and NFATC transcription factors will pave the way to identify new pathways in the adaptation of the cardiomyocyte to stress. The elucidation of these pathways will in the long-term provide insights into potential targets for novel therapeutic regimens.
Ceramide, a pro-apoptotic molecule, is negatively regulated in hypoxic adaptation of the mouse heart. This study examined the regulation of ceramide. They observed that the promoter of the DEGS1 gene has overlapping binding sites for both NFATC and Hand 2 transcription factors and that these proteins interact with the E-Box proteins, suggesting that adaptation of cardiomyocytes to stress may involve this mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3665309  PMID: 23672204
15.  Meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135, and Y tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine: a new conjugate vaccine against invasive meningococcal disease 
Invasive meningococcal disease is a serious infection that occurs worldwide. It is caused by Neisseria meningitidis, of which six serogroups (A, B, C, W-135, X, and Y) are responsible for most infections. The case fatality rate of meningococcal disease remains high and can lead to significant sequelae. Vaccination remains the best strategy to prevent meningococcal disease. Polysaccharide vaccines were initially introduced in the late 1960s but their limitations (poor immunogenicity in infants and toddlers and hyporesponsiveness after repeated doses) have led to the development and use of meningococcal conjugate vaccines, which overcome these limitations. Two quadrivalent conjugated meningococcal vaccines – MenACWY-DT (Menactra®) and MenACWY-CRM197 (Menveo®) – using diphtheria toxoid or a mutant protein, respectively, as carrier proteins have already been licensed in the US. Recently, a quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine conjugated to tetanus toxoid (MenACWY-TT; Nimenrix®) was approved for use in Europe in 2012. The immunogenicity of MenACWY-TT, its reactogenicity and safety profile, as well as its coadministration with other vaccines are discussed in this review. Clinical trials showed that MenACWY-TT was immunogenic in children above the age of 12 months, adolescents, and adults, and has an acceptable reactogenicity and safety profile. Its coadministration with several other vaccines that are commonly used in children, adolescents, and adults did not affect the immunogenicity of MenACWY-TT or the coadministered vaccine, nor did it affect its reactogenicity and safety. Other studies are now ongoing in order to determine the immunogenicity, reactogenicity, and safety of MenACWY-TT in infants from the age of 6 weeks.
PMCID: PMC3979687  PMID: 24729718
coadministration; immunogenicity; meningococcal conjugate vaccine; reactogenicity and safety
17.  Immunogenicity and Safety of a Quadrivalent Meningococcal Serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y Tetanus Toxoid Conjugate Vaccine (MenACWY-TT) Administered to Adults Aged 56 Years and Older: Results of an Open-Label, Randomized, Controlled Trial 
Drugs & Aging  2013;30(5):309-319.
The burden of invasive meningococcal disease is substantial in older adults in whom the case fatality rate is high. Travelers to regions with high rates of meningococcal disease, such as Hajj pilgrims, are at increased risk of meningococcal infection, and disease transmission from travelers to their close contacts has been documented. In younger individuals, meningococcal conjugate vaccines offer advantages over polysaccharide vaccines in terms of duration of protection and boostability, and induction of herd immune effects through reductions in nasopharyngeal carriage of meningococci. To date, few data are available evaluating meningococcal conjugate vaccine use in adults >55 years of age.
To evaluate the immunogenicity and safety of quadrivalent meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y vaccine with all serogroups conjugated to tetanus toxoid (MenACWY-TT, Nimenrix™, GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium) and a licensed quadrivalent polysaccharide vaccine (MenPS, Mencevax™ GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium) in adults >55 years of age.
This was a phase IIIb, open-label, randomized (3:1), controlled study conducted at one study center in Lebanon. A total of 400 healthy adults between 56 and 103 years of age without previous MenPS or tetanus toxoid vaccination within the previous 5 years or meningococcal conjugate vaccination at any time previously were included. They received a single-dose vaccination with MenACWY-TT or MenPS with blood sampling before and 1 month after vaccination. The main outcome measures were serum bactericidal activity (rabbit complement source: rSBA) vaccine response (VR) rate [rSBA titer of ≥1:32 in initially seronegative subjects (rSBA titer <1:8); ≥4-fold increase in subjects with pre-vaccination rSBA titers between 1:8 and 1:128, and ≥2-fold increase in subjects with pre-vaccination rSBA titers ≥1:128]. The percentages of subjects with rSBA titers ≥1:8 and ≥1:128 and rSBA geometric mean titers (GMTs) were assessed. Solicited adverse events were recorded for 4 days following vaccination, and all other adverse events, including the incidence of new onset chronic diseases, were recorded for 31 days after vaccination.
One month after a single dose of MenACWY-TT, the rSBA VR rate in the MenACWY-TT group was 76.6 % for serogroup A, 80.3 % for serogroup C, 77.5 % for serogroup W-135 and 81.9 % for serogroup Y. VR rates in the MenPS group were 91.7, 84.8, 87.1 and 89.1 %, respectively. One month after vaccination, ≥93.2 % of subjects in the MenACWY-TT group and ≥93.9 % in the MenPS group had rSBA titers ≥1:128. In each group, GMTs increased by ≥13-fold for each serogroup. rSBA VR and GMTs tended to be lower in subjects who were over 65 years compared to 56–65 years of age. Only 6.3 % of MenACWY-TT recipients had anti-TT ≥0.1 IU/ml prior to vaccination, increasing to 28.1 % post-vaccination. The rSBA GMTs were 1.9- to 4-fold higher in anti-TT responders. Each local and general solicited symptom was reported by no more than 3.0 % of subjects in either group. No serious adverse events were considered vaccine related.
In adults 56 years of age and older, MenACWY-TT was immunogenic, with a vaccine response rate ≥76 % and with ≥93 % of subjects achieving rSBA titers ≥1:128 against all four serogroups after a single dose. MenACWY-TT induced low anti-TT concentrations in this population, which deserves further study.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40266-013-0065-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3634976  PMID: 23494214
18.  p53 and Ceramide as Collaborators in the Stress Response 
The sphingolipid ceramide mediates various cellular processes in response to several extracellular stimuli. Some genotoxic stresses are able to induce p53-dependent ceramide accumulation leading to cell death. However, in other cases, in the absence of the tumor suppressor protein p53, apoptosis proceeds partly due to the activity of this “tumor suppressor lipid”, ceramide. In the current review, we describe ceramide and its roles in signaling pathways such as cell cycle arrest, hypoxia, hyperoxia, cell death, and cancer. In a specific manner, we are elaborating on the role of ceramide in mitochondrial apoptotic cell death signaling. Furthermore, after highlighting the role and mechanism of action of p53 in apoptosis, we review the association of ceramide and p53 with respect to apoptosis. Strikingly, the hypothesis for a direct interaction between ceramide and p53 is less favored. Recent data suggest that ceramide can act either upstream or downstream of p53 protein through posttranscriptional regulation or through many potential mediators, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3634419  PMID: 23455468
ceramide; p53; apoptosis; sphingolipids; mitochondria; signaling; Bcl2 family; caspase
19.  DOCK8 functions as an adaptor that links Toll-like receptor–MyD88 signaling to B cell activation 
Nature immunology  2012;13(6):612-620.
DOCK8 and MyD88 have been implicated in serologic memory. Here we report antibody responses were impaired and CD27+ memory B cells were severely reduced in DOCK8-deficient patients. Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9)- but not CD40-driven B cell proliferation and immunoglobulin production were severely reduced in DOCK8-deficient B cells. In contrast, TLR9-driven expression of AICDA, CD23 and CD86, and activation of NF-κB, p38 and Rac1 were intact. DOCK8 associated constitutively with MyD88 and the tyrosine kinase Pyk2 in normal B cells. Following TLR9 ligation, DOCK8 became tyrosine phosphorylated by Pyk2, bound the Src family kinase Lyn and linked TLR9 to a Src-Syk-STAT3 cascade essential for TLR9-driven B cell proliferation and differentiation. Thus, DOCK8 functions as an adaptor in a TLR9-MyD88 signaling pathway in B cells.
PMCID: PMC3362684  PMID: 22581261
20.  The immunogenicity and safety of an investigational meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine (ACWY-TT) compared with a licensed meningococcal tetravalent polysaccharide vaccine 
Immunogenicity and safety of ACWY-TT compared with licensed ACWY polysaccharide vaccine (MenPS) in healthy adults, and lot-to-lot consistency of three ACWY-TT lots were evaluated in a phase 3, open, controlled study. Adults aged 18–55 y were randomized to receive ACWY-TT (one of three lots) or MenPS. Serum bactericidal antibodies (rSBA) were measured pre- and 1 mo post-vaccination. Adverse events (AEs) were assessed 4 d (solicited symptoms) and 31 d (unsolicited symptoms) post-vaccination. Serious AEs were reported up to 6 mo after vaccination. The number of vaccinated subjects was 1247 (ACWY-TT, n = 935; MenPS, n = 312). ACWY-TT lot-to-lot consistency and non-inferiority of ACWY-TT as compared with MenPS groups were demonstrated according to pre-specified criteria. The percentages of subjects with a vaccine response (VR = rSBA titer ≥ 1:32 in initially seronegative; ≥ 4-fold increase in initially seropositive) to ACWY-TT vs. MenPS were 80.1%/69.8% (serogroup A), 91.5%/ 92.0% (C), 90.2%/85.5% (W-135), 87.0%/78.8% (Y). Exploratory analyses showed that for serogroups A, W-135 and Y, VR rates and GMTs were significantly higher for ACWY-TT compared with MenPS. For each serogroup, ≥ 98.0% of subjects had rSBA titers ≥ 1:128. Grade 3 solicited AEs were reported in ≤ 1.6% of subjects in any group. The immunogenicity of ACWY-TT vaccine was non-inferior to MenPS for all four serogroups in adults, with significantly higher VR rates to serogroups A, W-135 and Y and an acceptable safety profile. Consistency of 3 ACWY-TT production lots was demonstrated. These data suggest that, if licensed, ACWY-TT conjugate vaccine may be used for protection against invasive meningococcal disease in healthy adults.
This study is registered at NCT00453986
PMCID: PMC3495723  PMID: 22485050
ACWY-TT vaccine; Neisseria meningitidis; adult; bactericidal activity; conjugate vaccine; immunogenicity; safety; tetravalent meningococcal vaccine; vaccine
21.  The investigational meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine (ACWY-TT) and the seasonal influenza virus vaccine are immunogenic and well-tolerated when co-administered in adults 
Co-administration of meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y conjugate vaccine (ACWY-TT) with seasonal influenza vaccine was investigated in a subset of adults enrolled in a larger study evaluating lot-to-lot consistency of ACWY-TT and non-inferiority to licensed tetravalent meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MenPS). Subjects in this sub-study were randomized (3:1:1) to receive ACWY-TT alone (ACWY-TT group) or with seasonal influenza vaccine (Coad), or licensed MenPS alone. Serum bactericidal antibodies (rSBA) and serum haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibody titers were measured pre- and 1 mo post-vaccination. Non-inferiority of the Coad group compared with ACWY-TT group was demonstrated in terms of rSBA geometric mean antibody titers (GMTs) to serogroups A, W-135 and Y. For serogroup C the pre-defined non-inferiority limit was marginally exceeded. Post-vaccination rSBA GMTs were significantly higher (exploratory analysis) in the Coad group compared with the MenPS group for serogroups A, W-135, and Y and were similar to the MenPS group for serogroup C. Overall, > 97% of subjects achieved rSBA titers ≥ 1:128 for all serogroups. The Coad group met all criteria defined by the Committee on Human Medicinal Products (CHMP) for seroprotection, seroconversion and seroconversion factor for HI antibodies for all three influenza strains. Grade 3 solicited local/general symptoms were reported by ≤ 1.9% of subjects in any group. These data support the co-administration of ACWY-TT with seasonal influenza vaccine when protection is needed against both diseases.
This study is registered at NCT00453986
PMCID: PMC3495724  PMID: 22485048
ACWY vaccine; Neisseria meningitidis; adult; co-administration; immunogenicity; influenza vaccine; polysaccharide vaccine; vaccine
22.  Temporally distinct roles for tumor suppressor pathways in cell cycle arrest and cellular senescence in Cyclin D1-driven tumor 
Molecular Cancer  2012;11:28.
Cellular senescence represents a tumor suppressive response to a variety of aberrant and oncogenic insults. We have previously described a transgenic mouse model of Cyclin D1-driven senescence in pineal cells that opposes tumor progression. We now attempted to define the molecular mechanisms leading to p53 activation in this model, and to identify effectors of Cyclin D1-induced senescence.
Senescence evolved over a period of weeks, with initial hyperproliferation followed by cell cycle arrest due to ROS production leading to activation of a DNA damage response and the p53 pathway. Interestingly, cell cycle exit was associated with repression of the Cyclin-dependent kinase Cdk2. This was followed days later by formation of heterochromatin foci correlating with RB protein hypophosphorylation. In the absence of the Cdk4-inhibitor p18Ink4c, cell cycle exit was delayed but most cells eventually showed a senescent phenotype. However, tumors later arose from this premalignant, largely senescent lesion. We found that the p53 pathway was intact in tumors arising in a p18Ink4c-/- background, indicating that the two genes represent distinct tumor suppressor pathways. Upon tumor progression, both p18Ink4c-/- and p53-/- tumors showed increased Cdk2 expression. Inhibition of Cdk2 in cultured pre-tumorigenic and tumor cells of both backgrounds resulted in decreased proliferation and evidence of senescence.
Our findings indicate that the p53 and the RB pathways play temporally distinct roles in senescence induction in Cyclin D1-expressing cells, and that Cdk2 inhibition plays a role in tumor suppression, and may be a useful therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3497584  PMID: 22548705
p18Ink4c; Cyclin D1; Senescence; p53; Rb; Cdk2; Tumor; Reactive oxygen species
23.  Genotypes and serotype distribution of macrolide resistant invasive and non- invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates from Lebanon 
This study determined macrolide resistance genotypes in clinical isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae from multiple medical centers in Lebanon and assessed the serotype distribution in relation to these mechanism(s) of resistance and the source of isolate recovery.
Forty four macrolide resistant and 21 macrolide susceptible S. pneumoniae clinical isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibility according to CLSI guidelines (2008) and underwent molecular characterization. Serotyping of these isolates was performed by Multiplex PCR-based serotype deduction using CDC protocols. PCR amplification of macrolide resistant erm (encoding methylase) and mef (encoding macrolide efflux pump protein) genes was carried out.
Among 44 isolates resistant to erythromycin, 35 were resistant to penicillin and 18 to ceftriaxone. Examination of 44 macrolide resistant isolates by PCR showed that 16 isolates harbored the erm(B) gene, 8 isolates harbored the mef gene, and 14 isolates harbored both the erm(B) and mef genes. There was no amplification by PCR of the erm(B) or mef genes in 6 isolates. Seven different capsular serotypes 2, 9V/9A,12F, 14,19A, 19F, and 23, were detected by multiplex PCR serotype deduction in 35 of 44 macrolide resistant isolates, with 19F being the most prevalent serotype. With the exception of serotype 2, all serotypes were invasive. Isolates belonging to the invasive serotypes 14 and 19F harbored both erm(B) and mef genes. Nine of the 44 macrolide resistant isolates were non-serotypable by our protocols.
Macrolide resistance in S. pneumoniae in Lebanon is mainly through target site modification but is also mediated through efflux pumps, with serotype 19F having dual resistance and being the most prevalent and invasive.
PMCID: PMC3371826  PMID: 22248318
Antimicrobials; Macrolides; Resistance; Genes; Serotyping
24.  Evidence of Infection with H4 and H11 Avian Influenza Viruses among Lebanese Chicken Growers 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26818.
Human infections with H5, H7, and H9 avian influenza viruses are well documented. Exposure to poultry is the most important risk factor for humans becoming infected with these viruses. Data on human infection with other low pathogenicity avian influenza viruses is sparse but suggests that such infections may occur. Lebanon is a Mediterranean country lying under two major migratory birds flyways and is home to many wild and domestic bird species. Previous reports from this country demonstrated that low pathogenicity avian influenza viruses are in circulation but highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses were not reported. In order to study the extent of human infection with avian influenza viruses in Lebanon, we carried out a seroprevalence cross-sectional study into which 200 poultry-exposed individuals and 50 non-exposed controls were enrolled. We obtained their sera and tested it for the presence of antibodies against avian influenza viruses types H4 through H16 and used a questionnaire to collect exposure data. Our microneutralization assay results suggested that backyard poultry growers may have been previously infected with H4 and H11 avian influenza viruses. We confirmed these results by using a horse red blood cells hemagglutination inhibition assay. Our data also showed that farmers with antibodies against each virus type clustered in a small geographic area suggesting that unrecognized outbreaks among birds may have led to these human infections. In conclusion, this study suggests that occupational exposure to chicken is a risk factor for infection with avian influenza especially among backyard growers and that H4 and H11 influenza viruses may possess the ability to cross the species barrier to infect humans.
PMCID: PMC3203926  PMID: 22046370
25.  Expansion of immunoglobulin-secreting cells and defects in B cell tolerance in Rag-dependent immunodeficiency 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2010;207(7):1541-1554.
The contribution of B cells to the pathology of Omenn syndrome and leaky severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) has not been previously investigated. We have studied a mut/mut mouse model of leaky SCID with a homozygous Rag1 S723C mutation that impairs, but does not abrogate, V(D)J recombination activity. In spite of a severe block at the pro–B cell stage and profound B cell lymphopenia, significant serum levels of immunoglobulin (Ig) G, IgM, IgA, and IgE and a high proportion of Ig-secreting cells were detected in mut/mut mice. Antibody responses to trinitrophenyl (TNP)-Ficoll and production of high-affinity antibodies to TNP–keyhole limpet hemocyanin were severely impaired, even after adoptive transfer of wild-type CD4+ T cells. Mut/mut mice produced high amounts of low-affinity self-reactive antibodies and showed significant lymphocytic infiltrates in peripheral tissues. Autoantibody production was associated with impaired receptor editing and increased serum B cell–activating factor (BAFF) concentrations. Autoantibodies and elevated BAFF levels were also identified in patients with Omenn syndrome and leaky SCID as a result of hypomorphic RAG mutations. These data indicate that the stochastic generation of an autoreactive B cell repertoire, which is associated with defects in central and peripheral checkpoints of B cell tolerance, is an important, previously unrecognized, aspect of immunodeficiencies associated with hypomorphic RAG mutations.
PMCID: PMC2901061  PMID: 20547827

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