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J Immunol. 2002 Feb 15;168(4):1877-85.

Oral DNA vaccination in utero induces mucosal immunity and immune memory in the neonate.

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Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Infectious diseases are responsible for a significant number of deaths during the first weeks of life. Some of the salient pathogens include HSV, HIV, hepatitis B virus, group B streptococcus, Haemophilus sp., and Chlamydia sp. The vertical transmission of many of these pathogens significantly increases the risk of neonatal infection. We recently reported that oral DNA immunization in utero induced high serum Ab titers and cell-mediated immunity in fetal lambs. In this study, we demonstrate immune memory and mucosal immunity in newborn lambs following oral DNA immunization of the fetus. A single oral exposure in utero to plasmid DNA encoding a truncated form of glycoprotein D of bovine herpesvirus-1 induced detectable immune responses in 80% (12 of 15) of newborn lambs. There was no evidence for the induction of immune tolerance in nonresponding lambs. Responding lambs displayed both systemic and mucosal immune responses and reduced virus shedding following intranasal challenge. Furthermore, strong anamnestic responses were evident for at least 3 mo after birth. The efficacy of in utero oral DNA immunization was further demonstrated with the hepatitis B surface Ag, and protective serum Ab titers occurred in 75% of immunized lambs. Thus, the present investigation confirms that oral DNA immunization in utero can induce both mucosal and systemic immune responses in the neonate and that this immunity has the potential to prevent vertical disease transmission.

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