Background: Whilst a large number of malaria antigens are being tested as candidate malaria vaccines, a major barrier to the development of an effective vaccine is the lack of a suitable human adjuvant capable of inducing a strong and long lasting immune response. In this study, the ability of AFCo1, a potent T and B cell adjuvant based on cochleate structures derived from meningococcal B outer membrane proteoliposomes (MBOMP), to boost the immune response against two Plasmodium falciparum antigens, merozoite surface protein 4 (MSP4) and 5 (MSP5), was evaluated.
Methods: Complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA), which is able to confer protection against malaria in animal MSP4/5 vaccine challenge models, was used as positive control adjuvant. MSP4 and 5-specific IgG, delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), T-cell proliferation, and cytokine production were evaluated in parallel in mice immunized three times intramuscularly with MSP4 or MSP5 incorporated into AFCo1, synthetic cochleate structures, CFA or phosphate buffered saline.
Results: AFCo1 significantly enhanced the IgG and T-cell response against MSP4 and MSP5, with a potency equivalent to CFA, with the response being characterized by both IgG1 and IgG2a isotypes, increased interferon gamma production and a strong DTH response, consistent with the ability of AFCo1 to induce Th1-like immune responses.
Conclusion: Given the proven safety of MBOMP, which is already in use in a licensed human vaccine, AFCo1 could assist the development of human malaria vaccines that require a potent and safe adjuvant.