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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017 May 12;11(5):e0005527. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005527. eCollection 2017 May.

A third generation vaccine for human visceral leishmaniasis and post kala azar dermal leishmaniasis: First-in-human trial of ChAd63-KH.

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Centre for Immunology and Infection, Dept. of Biology and Hull York Medical School, University of York, Heslington, York, United Kingdom.
Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Heslington, York, United Kingdom.
ReiThera Srl (formerly Okairos Srl), Rome, Italy.
Keires AG, Bäumleingasse 18, Basel, Switzerland.
Agents of Mycoses, Parasitoses and Mycobacterioses, Robert Koch-Institute, Berlin, Germany.



Visceral leishmaniasis (VL or kala azar) is the most serious form of human leishmaniasis, responsible for over 20,000 deaths annually, and post kala azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL) is a stigmatizing skin condition that often occurs in patients after successful treatment for VL. Lack of effective or appropriately targeted cell mediated immunity, including CD8+ T cell responses, underlies the progression of VL and progression to PKDL, and can limit the therapeutic efficacy of anti-leishmanial drugs. Hence, in addition to the need for prophylactic vaccines against leishmaniasis, the development of therapeutic vaccines for use alone or in combined immuno-chemotherapy has been identified as an unmet clinical need. Here, we report the first clinical trial of a third-generation leishmaniasis vaccine, developed intentionally to induce Leishmania-specific CD8+ T cells.


We conducted a first-in-human dose escalation Phase I trial in 20 healthy volunteers to assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of a prime-only adenoviral vaccine for human VL and PKDL. ChAd63-KH is a replication defective simian adenovirus expressing a novel synthetic gene (KH) encoding two Leishmania proteins KMP-11 and HASPB. Uniquely, the latter was engineered to reflect repeat domain polymorphisms and arrangements identified from clinical isolates. We monitored innate immune responses by whole blood RNA-Seq and antigen specific CD8+ T cell responses by IFNγ ELISPOT and intracellular flow cytometry.


ChAd63-KH was safe at intramuscular doses of 1x1010 and 7.5x1010 vp. Whole blood transcriptomic profiling indicated that ChAd63-KH induced innate immune responses characterized by an interferon signature and the presence of activated dendritic cells. Broad and quantitatively robust CD8+ T cell responses were induced by vaccination in 100% (20/20) of vaccinated subjects.


The results of this study support the further development of ChAd63-KH as a novel third generation vaccine for VL and PKDL.


This clinical trial (LEISH1) was registered at EudraCT (2012-005596-14) and ISRCTN (07766359).

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