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SapM mutation to improve the BCG vaccine: Genomic, transcriptomic and preclinical safety characterization

Festjens, Nele, Vandewalle, Kristof, Houthuys, Erica, Plets, Evelyn, Vanderschaeghe, Dieter, Borgers, Katlyn, Van Hecke, Annelies, Tiels, Petra, Callewaert, Nico
Vaccine 2019 v.37 no.27 pp. 3539-3551
BCG vaccine, Mycobacterium bovis, acid phosphatase, adults, bacteria, genes, genomics, intravenous injection, live vaccines, mice, mutants, mutation, pathogenicity, severe combined immunodeficiency, transcriptome, transcriptomics, transposons, tuberculosis, vaccination
The Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccine shows variable efficacy in protection against adult tuberculosis (TB). Earlier, we have described a BCG mutant vaccine with a transposon insertion in the gene coding for the secreted acid phosphatase SapM, which led to enhanced long-term survival of vaccinated mice challenged with TB infection. To facilitate development of this mutation as part of a future improved live attenuated TB vaccine, we have now characterized the genome and transcriptome of this sapM::Tn mutant versus parental BCG Pasteur. Furthermore, we show that the sapM::Tn mutant had an equal low pathogenicity as WT BCG upon intravenous administration to immunocompromised SCID mice, passing this important safety test. Subsequently, we investigated the clearance of this improved vaccine strain following vaccination and found a more effective innate immune control over the sapM::Tn vaccine bacteria as compared to WT BCG. This leads to a fast contraction of IFNγ producing Th1 and Tc1 cells after sapM::Tn BCG vaccination. These findings corroborate that a live attenuated vaccine that affords improved long-term survival upon TB infection can be obtained by a mutation that further attenuates BCG. These findings suggest that an analysis of the effectiveness of innate immune control of the vaccine bacteria could be instructive also for other live attenuated TB vaccines that are currently under development, and encourage further studies of SapM mutation as a strategy in developing a more protective live attenuated TB vaccine.