Prevention of lethal experimental infection of C57BL/6 mice by vaccination with Brucella abortus strain RB51 expressing Neospora caninum antigens.
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Bovine abortions caused by the intracellular protozoal parasite Neospora caninum are a major concern to cattle industries worldwide. A strong Th1 immune response is required for protection against N. caninum. Brucella abortus strain RB51 is currently used as a live, attenuated vaccine against bovine brucellosis. Strain RB51 can also be used as an expression vector for heterologous protein expression. In this study, putative protective antigens of N. caninum MIC1, MIC3, GRA2, GRA6 and SRS2, were expressed individually in B. abortus strain RB51. The ability of each of the recombinant RB51 strains to induce N. caninum-specific immunity was assessed in C57BL/6 mice. Mice were immunised by two i.p. inoculations, 4 weeks apart. Five weeks after the second immunisation, spleen cells from the vaccinated mice secreted high levels of IFN-gamma and IL-10 upon in vitro stimulation with N. caninum whole cell lysate antigens. N. caninum-specific antibodies of both IgG1 and IgG2a subtypes were detected in the serum of the vaccinated mice. Mice in the vaccinated and control groups were challenged with 2 x 10(7)N. caninum tachyzoites i.p. and observed for 28 days after vaccination. All unvaccinated control mice died within 7 days. Mice in the MIC1 and GRA6 vaccine groups were completely protected while the mice in the SRS2, GRA2 and MIC3 vaccinated groups were partially protected and experienced 10-50% mortality. The non-recombinant RB51 vector control group experienced an average protection of 69%. These results suggest that expression of protective antigens of N. caninum in B. abortus strain RB51 is a novel approach towards the development of a multivalent vaccine against brucellosis and neosporosis.