Given the encouraging clinical results of both candidate subunit vaccines and revaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) against tuberculosis (TB), there is support for combining BCG and subunit vaccination for increased efficacy. BCG and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) share ~98% of their genome and current subunit vaccines are almost exclusively designed as BCG boosters. The goal of this study is to design a TB subunit vaccine composed of antigens not shared with BCG and explore the advantages of this design in a BCG + subunit co-administration vaccine strategy. Eight protective antigens are selected to create an Mtb-specific subunit vaccine, named H107. Whereas traditional vaccines containing BCG-shared antigens exhibit in vivo cross-reactivity to BCG, H107 shows no cross-reactivity and does not inhibit BCG colonization. Instead, co-administering H107 with BCG leads to increased adaptive responses against both H107 and BCG. Importantly, rather than expanding BCG-primed T cells, H107 broadens the overall vaccine repertoire with new T cell clones and introduces 'adjuvant-imprinted' qualities including Th17 responses and less-differentiated Th1 cells. Collectively, these features of H107 are associated with a substantial increase in long-term protection.
© 2021. The Author(s).