Background: In this study, a Burkholderia mallei tonB mutant (TMM001) deficient in iron acquisition was constructed, characterized, and evaluated for its protective properties in acute inhalational infection models of murine glanders and melioidosis.
Methodology/principal findings: Compared to the wild-type, TMM001 exhibits slower growth kinetics, siderophore hyper-secretion and the inability to utilize heme-containing proteins as iron sources. A series of animal challenge studies showed an inverse correlation between the percentage of survival in BALB/c mice and iron-dependent TMM001 growth. Upon evaluation of TMM001 as a potential protective strain against infection, we found 100% survival following B. mallei CSM001 challenge of mice previously receiving 1.5 x 10(4) CFU of TMM001. At 21 days post-immunization, TMM001-treated animals showed significantly higher levels of B. mallei-specific IgG1, IgG2a and IgM when compared to PBS-treated controls. At 48 h post-challenge, PBS-treated controls exhibited higher levels of serum inflammatory cytokines and more severe pathological damage to target organs compared to animals receiving TMM001. In a cross-protection study of acute inhalational melioidosis with B. pseudomallei, TMM001-treated mice were significantly protected. While wild type was cleared in all B. mallei challenge studies, mice failed to clear TMM001.
Conclusions/significance: Although further work is needed to prevent chronic infection by TMM001 while maintaining immunogenicity, our attenuated strain demonstrates great potential as a backbone strain for future vaccine development against both glanders and melioidosis.