Bacillus subtilis: a temperature resistant and needle free delivery system of immunogens

Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2012 Jul;8(7):979-86. doi: 10.4161/hv.20694. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


Most pathogens enter the body through mucosal surfaces. Mucosal immunization, a non-invasive needle-free route, often stimulates a mucosal immune response that is both effective against mucosal and systemic pathogens. The development of mucosally administered heat-stable vaccines with long shelf life would therefore significantly enhance immunization programs in developing countries by avoiding the need for a cold chain or systemic injections. Currently, recombinant vaccine carriers are being used for antigen delivery. Engineering Bacillus subtilis for use as a non-invasive and heat stable antigen delivery system has proven successful. Bacterial spores protected by multiple layers of protein are known to be robust and resistant to desiccation. Stable constructs have been created by integration into the bacterial chromosome of immunogens. The spore coat has been used as a vehicle for heterologous antigen presentation and protective immunization. Sublingual (SL) and intranasal (IN) routes have recently received attention as delivery routes for therapeutic drugs and vaccines and recent attempts by several investigators, including our group, to develop vaccines that can be delivered intranasally and sublingually have met with a lot of success. As discussed in this review, the use of Bacillus subtilis to express antigens that can be administered either intranasally or sublingually is providing new insights in the area of mucosal vaccines. In our work, we evaluated the efficacy of SL and IN immunizations with B. subtilis engineered to express tetanus toxin fragment C (TTFC) in mice and piglets. These bacteria engineered to express heterologous antigen either on the spore surface or within the vegetative cell have been used for oral, IN and SL delivery of antigens. A Bacillus subtilis spore coat protein, CotC was used as a fusion partner to express the tetanus fragment C. B. subtilis spores known to be highly stable and safe are also easy to purify making this spore-based display system a potentially powerful approach for surface expression of antigens. These advances will help to accelerate the development and testing of new mucosal vaccines against many human and animal diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Administration, Mucosal
  • Administration, Sublingual
  • Animals
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics*
  • Bacillus subtilis / immunology*
  • Cell Surface Display Techniques / methods*
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Drug Stability
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Mice
  • Swine
  • Tetanus Toxoid / administration & dosage*
  • Tetanus Toxoid / genetics
  • Tetanus Toxoid / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / genetics
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology


  • Drug Carriers
  • Tetanus Toxoid
  • Vaccines, Synthetic