Vaccination of yearling horses against poly-N-acetyl glucosamine fails to protect against infection with Streptococcus equi subspecies equi.
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Strangles is a common disease of horses with worldwide distribution caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi subspecies equi (SEE). Although vaccines against strangles are available commercially, these products have limitations in safety and efficacy. The microbial surface antigen 16 poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) is expressed by SEE. Here we show that intramuscular (IM) injection alone or a combination of IM plus intranasal (IN) immunization generated antibodies to PNAG that functioned to deposit complement and mediate opsonophagocytic killing of SEE ex vivo. However, immunization strategies targeting PNAG either by either IM only injection or a combination of IM and IN immunizations failed to protect yearling horses against infection following contact with infected horses in an experimental setting. We speculate that a protective vaccine against strangles will require additional components, such as those targeting SEE enzymes that degrade or inactivate equine IgG.