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Humoral and cellular immune correlates of protection against bubonic plague by a live Yersinia pseudotuberculosis vaccine

Demeure, Christian E., Derbise, Anne, Guillas, Chloé, Gerke, Christiane, Cauchemez, Simon, Carniel, Elisabeth, Pizarro-Cerdá, Javier
Vaccine 2019 v.37 no.1 pp. 123-129
Yersinia pestis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, antibodies, antigens, blood serum, clinical trials, humans, immune response, immunoglobulin G, live vaccines, mice, plague, toxins, vaccination
Immunization with the live-attenuated Yersinia pseudotuberculosis VTnF1 strain producing a Yersinia pestis F1 pseudocapsule efficiently protects mice against bubonic and pneumonic plague. In clinical trials, demonstration of a plague vaccine’s efficacy in humans will not be feasible, and correlates of protection will be needed to bridge the immune response of protected animals to that of vaccinated humans. Using serum transfer and vaccination of antibody-deficient µMT mice, we established that both humoral and cellular responses elicited by VTnF1 independently conferred protection against bubonic plague. Thus, correlates were searched for in both responses, using blood only. Mice were vaccinated with increasing doses of VTnF1 to provide a range of immune responses and survival outcomes. The cellular response was evaluated using an in vitro IFNγ release assay, and IFNγ levels were significantly associated with protection, although some survivors were negative for IFNγ, so that IFNγ release is not a fully satisfactory correlate. Abundant serum IgG against the F1 capsule, Yop injectable toxins, and also non-F1 Y.pestis antigens were found, but none against the LcrV antigen. All readouts correlated to survival and to each other, confirming that vaccination triggered multiple protective mechanisms developing in parallel. Anti-F1 IgG was the most stringent correlate of protection, in both inbred BALB/c mice and outbred OF1 mice. This indicates that antibodies (Ab) to F1 play a dominant role for protection even in the presence of Ab to many other targets. Easy to measure, the anti-F1 IgG titer will be useful to evaluate the immune response in other animal species and in clinical trials.