Francisella tularensis is the causitive agent of tularemia, a severe zoonotic disease in humans with fatality rates exceeding 30% in untreated subjects. Infection following inhalation causes the most severe form of disease and combind with its high virulence and history of weaponization makes this pathogen a concern for use as a biological weapon. Development of a vaccine that protects against aerosol infection is a priority. We have engineered a series of live attenuated vaccine candidates based on the highly virulent Schu S4 strain that exhibit a range of protective capacities in the mouse and rabbit models of respiratory challenge. Our studies have confirmed that rabbits are an excellent model of human pneumonic tularemia and a highly relevant model for evaluating tularemia vaccines as they display similar resistance to attenuated strains and susceptibility to virulent strains as humans. We hypothesize that the outbred human-relevant, rabbit model will allow us to identify correlates of protection using the collection of vaccine strains that confer a range (0% to 83%) of protective efficacies against lethal aerosol challenge. This grant seeks to understand the mechanism(s) underlying this protection. Our hypothesis is that effective vaccination in the rabbit model is a product of i) induction of particular, Ag-specific responses and/or ii) the immunogen's persistence and immuno-stimulatory properties.
The first aim will identify the bacterial Ag(s) recognized specifically by protective immune responses.
The second aim will explore the humoral and cellular immune response as well as the role of persistence and immune stimulation by F. tularensis derivatives in protection against challenge.
The third aim will evaluate the efficacy of a subunit vaccine and an optimized live attenuated vaccine against inhalation of F. tularensis. The information gained under this proposal will expand our understanding of the humoral and cellular immune response to tularemia vaccines, the importance of these responses in protection against tularemia in the rabbit and the relevance to protection in humans.

Public Health Relevance

Inhalation of Francisella tularensis causes significant morbidity and mortality in humans - an outbred population. The studies proposed in this application will greatly improve our knowledge of the immunological responses elicited by tularemia vaccines and responses important for protection in an outbred model against pneumonic tularemia. This information will be useful in the design and evaluation of vaccines that protect outbred species against inhalation of F. tularensis.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01AI123129-03
Application #
9418013
Study Section
Vaccines Against Microbial Diseases Study Section (VMD)
Program Officer
Zou, Lanling
Project Start
2016-02-15
Project End
2021-01-31
Budget Start
2018-02-01
Budget End
2019-01-31
Support Year
3
Fiscal Year
2018
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
Albany Medical College
Department
Microbiology/Immun/Virology
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
190592162
City
Albany
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
12208