Oral immunization of mice with the live vaccine strain (LVS) of Francisella tularensis protects mice against respiratory challenge with virulent type A F. tularensis

Vaccine. 2007 May 10;25(19):3781-91. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.02.014. Epub 2007 Feb 26.


Francisella tularensis is a Gram-negative intracellular bacterium, and the causative agent of tularemia. The infection can be initiated by various routes and can manifest itself in several clinical forms with the disseminated typhoidal form initiated by inhalation being most fatal. The attenuated live vaccine strain (LVS), developed almost 50 years ago, remains the sole effective tularemia vaccine, which is still only available as an investigational new drug for at-risk individuals. This vaccine, when given by scarification, appears to provide solid protection against subsequent systemic infection with clinical strains of F. tularensis, but its efficacy against respiratory infection is less satisfactory. In this study, we evaluated the potential of oral immunization with LVS for eliciting protection against systemic and respiratory infection with virulent F. tularensis strains in a mouse model of tularemia. Oral LVS immunization was highly effective at protecting Balb/c mice against lethal systemic or respiratory challenges with type A and type B F. tularensis. Compared to sham-immunized mice, oral LVS-immunized mice showed significant reductions in burdens of virulent F. tularensis in the lung and spleen and milder tissue damage and inflammation in the liver. The immunization induced F. tularensis-specific antibody responses in the serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids, as well as antigen-specific splenocyte proliferation and IFN-gamma and IL-2 production. The protective efficacy was related to the size of the immunizing dose but not the number of doses administered. Like other routes of LVS immunization in mice, the protective immunity induced by oral immunization was relatively short-lived. These results suggest that oral immunization should be explored further as an alternative vaccination strategy to combat tularemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Bacterial Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Francisella tularensis / immunology
  • Francisella tularensis / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Immunization / methods
  • Lung / microbiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Tularemia* / immunology
  • Tularemia* / microbiology
  • Tularemia* / mortality
  • Tularemia* / prevention & control
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / administration & dosage*
  • Virulence


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Attenuated