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Infect Immun. 2009 Jul;77(7):2962-70. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01522-08. Epub 2009 Apr 20.

M-cell targeting of whole killed bacteria induces protective immunity against gastrointestinal pathogens.

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  • 1Centre for Animal Biotechnology, School of Veterinary Science, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


As the majority of human pathogens infect via a mucosal surface, delivery of killed vaccines by mucosal routes could potentially improve protection against many such organisms. Our ability to develop effective killed mucosal vaccines is inhibited by a lack of adjuvants that are safe and effective in humans. The Ulex europaeus agglutinin I (UEA-I) lectin specifically binds M cells lining the murine gastrointestinal tract. We explored the potential for M-cell-targeted vaccination of whole, killed Helicobacter pylori, the main causative agent of peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer, and Campylobacter jejuni, the most common cause of diarrhea. Oral delivery of UEA-I-agglutinated H. pylori or C. jejuni induced a significant increase in both serum and intestinal antibody levels. This elevated response (i) required the use of whole bacteria, as it did not occur with lysate; (ii) was not mediated by formation of particulate clumps, as agglutination with a lectin with a different glycan specificity had no effect; and (iii) was not due to lectin-mediated, nonspecific immunostimulatory activity, as UEA-I codelivery with nonagglutinated bacteria did not enhance the response. Vaccination with UEA-I-agglutinated, killed whole H. pylori induced a protective response against subsequent live challenge that was as effective as that induced by cholera toxin adjuvant. Moreover, vaccination against C. jejuni by this approach resulted in complete protection against challenge in almost all animals. We believe that this is the first demonstration that targeting of whole killed bacteria to mucosal M cells can induce protective immunity without the addition of an immunostimulatory adjuvant.

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