Boosting BCG with proteins or rAd5 does not enhance protection against tuberculosis in rhesus macaques

NPJ Vaccines. 2019 May 28;4:21. doi: 10.1038/s41541-019-0113-9. eCollection 2019.


Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death from infection worldwide. The only approved vaccine, BCG, has variable protective efficacy against pulmonary TB, the transmissible form of the disease. Therefore, improving this efficacy is an urgent priority. This study assessed whether heterologous prime-boost vaccine regimens in which BCG priming is boosted with either (i) protein and adjuvant (M72 plus AS01E or H56 plus CAF01) delivered intramuscularly (IM), or (ii) replication-defective recombinant adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) expressing various Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) antigens (Ad5(TB): M72, ESAT-6/Ag85b, or ESAT-6/Rv1733/Rv2626/RpfD) administered simultaneously by IM and aerosol (AE) routes, could enhance blood- and lung-localized T-cell immunity and improve protection in a nonhuman primate (NHP) model of TB infection. Ad5(TB) vaccines administered by AE/IM routes following BCG priming elicited ~10-30% antigen-specific CD4 and CD8 T-cell multifunctional cytokine responses in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) but did not provide additional protection compared to BCG alone. Moreover, AE administration of an Ad5(empty) control vector after BCG priming appeared to diminish protection induced by BCG. Boosting BCG by IM immunization of M72/AS01E or H56:CAF01 elicited ~0.1-0.3% antigen-specific CD4 cytokine responses in blood with only a transient increase of ~0.5-1% in BAL; these vaccine regimens also failed to enhance BCG-induced protection. Taken together, this study shows that boosting BCG with protein/adjuvant or Ad-based vaccines using these antigens, by IM or IM/AE routes, respectively, do not enhance protection against primary infection compared with BCG alone, in the highly susceptible rhesus macaque model of tuberculosis.

Keywords: Diseases; Immunology; Microbiology.