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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 6;109(10):3623-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1121383109. Epub 2012 Feb 2.

Serotype-independent pneumococcal experimental vaccines that induce cellular as well as humoral immunity.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


For prevention of Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) infections in infancy, protein-conjugated capsular polysaccharide vaccines provide serotype-specific, antibody-mediated immunity but do not cover all of the 90+ capsule serotypes. Therefore, microbiologists have sought protective noncapsular antigens common to all strains. Alternatively, we investigated killed cells of a noncapsulated strain, which expose many such common antigens. Given to mice intranasally, this vaccine elicits antibody-independent, CD4+ T lymphocyte-dependent accelerated clearance of pneumococci of various serotypes from the nasopharynx mediated by the cytokine IL-17A. Such immunity may reproduce the natural resistance that develops in infants before capsular antibodies arise. Given by injection, the killed cell vaccine induces bifunctional immunity: plasma antibodies protective against fatal pneumonia challenge, as well as IL-17A-mediated nasopharyngeal clearance. Human testing of this inexpensive candidate vaccine by intramuscular injection is planned. Bacterial cellular vaccines are complex--a challenge for reproducibility. However, when several known protective antigens were deleted, the killed pneumococcal vaccine was still protective. This antigenic redundancy may prevent vaccine escape variants by recombinational loss, which is frequent in pneumococcus. Biochemically defined immunogens with bifunctional activity have also been devised. These immunogens are three-component conjugates in which cell wall teichoic acid (a common antigen capable of T cell activation) is coupled to a genetic fusion of two common pneumococcal proteins: a protective surface antigen and a derivative of pneumolysin, which provides TLR4 agonist activity and induces antitoxic immunity. Such constructs induce accelerated clearance when given intranasally and induce both immune mechanisms when injected. The defined composition permits analysis of structure-function activity.

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