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Infect Immun. 2008 May;76(5):2025-36. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00105-08. Epub 2008 Mar 17.

Yersinia pestis caf1 variants and the limits of plague vaccine protection.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Yersinia pestis, the highly virulent agent of plague, is a biological weapon. Strategies that prevent plague have been sought for centuries, and immunization with live, attenuated (nonpigmented) strains or subunit vaccines with F1 (Caf1) antigen is considered effective. We show here that immunization with live, attenuated strains generates plague-protective immunity and humoral immune responses against F1 pilus antigen and LcrV. Y. pestis variants lacking caf1 (F1 pili) are not only fully virulent in animal models of bubonic and pneumonic plague but also break through immune responses generated with live, attenuated strains or F1 subunit vaccines. In contrast, immunization with purified LcrV, a protein at the tip of type III needles, generates protective immunity against the wild-type and the fully virulent caf1 mutant strain, in agreement with the notion that LcrV can elicit vaccine protection against both types of virulent plague strains.

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