Background: Increasing the breadth of the functional antibody response through immunization with Plasmodium falciparum apical membrane antigen 1 (PfAMA1) multi-allele vaccine formulations has been demonstrated in several rodent and rabbit studies. This study assesses the safety and immunogenicity of three PfAMA1 Diversity-Covering (DiCo) vaccine candidates formulated as an equimolar mixture (DiCo mix) in CoVaccine HT™ or Montanide ISA 51, as well as that of a PfAMA1-MSP1₁₉ fusion protein formulated in Montanide ISA 51.
Methods: Vaccine safety in rhesus macaques was monitored by animal behaviour observation and assessment of organ and systemic functions through clinical chemistry and haematology measurements. The immunogenicity of vaccine formulations was assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and in vitro parasite growth inhibition assays with three culture-adapted P. falciparum strains.
Results: These data show that both adjuvants were well tolerated with only transient changes in a few of the chemical and haematological parameters measured. DiCo mix formulated in CoVaccine HT™ proved immunologically and functionally superior to the same candidate formulated in Montanide ISA 51. Immunological data from the fusion protein candidate was however difficult to interpret as four out of six immunized animals were non-responsive for unknown reasons.
Conclusions: The study highlights the safety and immunological benefits of DiCo mix as a potential human vaccine against blood stage malaria, especially when formulated in CoVaccine HT™, and adds to the accumulating data on the specificity broadening effects of DiCo mix.