New Nanoparticle-Based Vaccine Protects against Anthrax and Plague

A research team in the United States has developed a nanoparticle-based dual vaccine against Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis — pathogens that cause anthrax and plague, respectively.

This scanning electron micrograph shows macrophages infected with Bacillus anthracis. Image credit: Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology.

This scanning electron micrograph shows macrophages infected with Bacillus anthracis. Image credit: Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology.

Vaccines are one of the most successful medical interventions of the past millennium.

Millions of lives have been saved by mass administration of vaccines against deadly pathogens such as smallpox and flu.

However, effective vaccines are still lacking for many pathogens, including biothreat agents such as the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis and the Gram-negative bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Using bacteriophage T4, University of Texas Medical Branch’s Professor Ashok Chopra and Catholic University of America’s Professor Venigalla Rao and colleagues developed the vaccine by incorporating key antigens of both pathogens into one formulation.

Two doses of this vaccine provided complete protection against both inhalational anthrax and pneumonic plague in animal models.

Even when animals were threatened with lethal doses of both anthrax lethal toxin and Yersinia pestis CO92 bacteria, the vaccine was shown to be effective.

Schematic of the bacteriophage T4 nanoparticle platform: (a) structural model of phage T4; the enlarged capsomer shows the major capsid protein gp23* (cyan), Soc (magenta), and Hoc (yellow); (b) in vitro assembly of Soc-fused antigen (blue) molecules on Hoc-Soc-T4 phage capsid. Image credit: Tao et al, doi: 10.1128/mBio.01926-18.

Schematic of the bacteriophage T4 nanoparticle platform: (a) structural model of phage T4; the enlarged capsomer shows the major capsid protein gp23* (cyan), Soc (magenta), and Hoc (yellow); (b) in vitro assembly of Soc-fused antigen (blue) molecules on Hoc-Soc-T4 phage capsid. Image credit: Tao et al, doi: 10.1128/mBio.01926-18.

“This dual anthrax-plague vaccine is a strong candidate for stockpiling against a potential bioterror attack involving either one or both of these biothreat agents,” the researchers said.

“Further, our results establish the T4 nanoparticle as a novel platform to develop multivalent vaccines against pathogens of high public health significance.”

The findings appear online this week in the journal mBio.

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Pan Tao et al. A Bacteriophage T4 Nanoparticle-Based Dual Vaccine against Anthrax and Plague. mBio, published online October 16, 2018; doi: 10.1128/mBio.01926-18

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