Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), remains a global pandemic, despite the widespread use of the parenteral live attenuated Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine during the past decades. Mucosal administration of next generation TB vaccines has great potential, but developing a safe and efficacious mucosal vaccine is challenging. Hence, understanding the in vivo biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of mucosal vaccines is essential for shaping the desired immune response and for optimal spatiotemporal targeting of the appropriate effector cells in the lungs. A subunit vaccine consisting of the fusion antigen H56 (Ag85B-ESAT-6-Rv2660) and the liposome-based cationic adjuvant formulation (CAF01) confers efficient protection in preclinical animal models. In this study, we devise a novel immunization strategy for the H56/CAF01 vaccine, which comply with the intrapulmonary (i.pulmon.) route of immunization. We also describe a novel dual-isotope (111In/67Ga) radiolabeling approach, which enables simultaneous non-invasive and longitudinal SPECT/CT imaging and quantification of H56 and CAF01 upon parenteral prime and/or i.pulmon. boost immunization. Our results demonstrate that the vaccine is distributed evenly in the lungs, and there are pronounced differences in the pharmacokinetics of H56 and CAF01. We provide convincing evidence that the H56/CAF01 vaccine is not only well-tolerated when administered to the respiratory tract, but it also induces strong lung mucosal and systemic IgA and polyfunctional Th1 and Th17 responses after parenteral prime and i.pulmon. boost immunization. The study furthermore evaluate the application of SPECT/CT imaging for the investigation of vaccine biodistribution after parenteral and i.pulmon. immunization of mice.
Keywords: H56/CAF01 vaccine; SPECT/CT imaging; T cells; drug delivery; dual-isotope 111In/67Ga; mucosal immunity; nanomedicine; pulmonary immunization.