Testing human biologicals in animal host resistance models

J Immunotoxicol. 2008 Jan;5(1):23-31. doi: 10.1080/15476910801897557.


The purpose of immunotoxicity testing is to obtain data that is meaningful for safety assessment. Host resistance assays are the best measure of a toxicant's effect on the overall ability to mount an effective immune response and protect the host from infectious disease. An outline is presented for immunotoxicological evaluation using host resistance assays. The influenza virus host resistance model is useful to evaluate the overall health of the immune system and is one of the most thoroughly characterized host resistance models. Viral clearance requires all aspects of the immune system to work together and is the ultimate measure of the health of the immune system in this model. Mechanistic immune functions may be included while measuring viral clearance and include: cytokines, macrophage activity, natural killer (NK) cell activity, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) activity, and influenza-specific IgM and IgG. Measurement of these immunological functions provides an evaluation of innate immunity (macrophage or NK activity), an evaluation of cell-mediated immunity (CMI) (CTL activity), and an evaluation of humoral-mediated immunity (HMI) (influenza-specific IgM or IgG). Measurement of influenza-specific IgM or IgG also provides a measurement of T-dependent antibody response (TDAR) since influenza is a T-dependent antigen. There are several targeted host resistance models that may be used to answer specific questions. Should a defect in neutrophil and/or macrophage function be suspected, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or Listeria monocytogenes host resistance models are useful. Anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals or therapeutics for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease that target TNFalpha may also be evaluated for immunotoxicity using the S. pneumoniae intranasal host resistance assay. Marginal zone B (MZB) cells are required for production of antibody to T-independent antigens such as the polysaccharide capsule of the encapsulated bacteria that are so prominent in causing blood-borne infections and pneumonia. Intravenous infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae, an encapsulated bacterium, results in a blood-borne infection that requires MZB cells for clearance. The systemic S. pneumoniae host resistance assay evaluates whether a therapeutic test article exerts immunotoxicity on MZB cells and measures the T-independent antibody response (TIAR). Suppression of CMI or in some cases HMI may result in reactivation of latent virus that may result in a fatal disease such as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). The murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) reactivation model may be used to evaluate a pharmaceutical agent to determine if suppression of CMI or HMI results in reactivation of latent virus. Candida albicans is another host resistance model to test potential immunotoxicity. Host resistance assays have been the ultimate measure of immunotoxicity testing for environmental chemicals and pharmaceutical small molecules. Human biologicals are now an important component of the drug development armamentarium for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Many human biologicals are fusions of IgG, and/or target immune mediators, immunological receptors, adhesion molecules, and/or are indicated for diseases that have immune components. It is therefore necessary to thoroughly evaluate human biological therapeutics for immunotoxicity. Numerous biologicals that are pharmacologically active in rodents can be evaluated using well-characterized rodent host resistance assays. However, biologicals not active in rodents may use surrogate biologicals for testing in rodent host resistance assays, or may use host resistance assays in genetically engineered mice that mimic the effect of the human biological pharmacological agent.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products / immunology*
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Pharmacological
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Communicable Diseases / therapy
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / trends
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Rats
  • Risk Adjustment


  • Biological Products
  • Biomarkers, Pharmacological