Vaccines 2017 12 065(4) pii 10.3390/vaccines5040047
Infection by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) remains a major global concern and the available Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is poorly efficacious in adults. Therefore, alternative vaccines and delivery strategies focusing on Mtb antigens and appropriate immune stimulating adjuvants are needed to induce protective immunity targeted to the lungs, the primary sites of infections and pathology. We present here evidence in support of mucosal vaccination by the sublingual route in mice using the subunit Mtb antigens Ag85B and ESAT-6 adjuvanted with the glycolipid alpha-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer), a potent natural killer T (NKT) cell agonist. Vaccinated animals exhibited strong antigen-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells responses in the spleen, cervical lymph nodes and lungs. In general, inclusion of the α-GalCer adjuvant significantly enhanced these responses that persisted over 50 days. Furthermore, aerosolized Mtb infection of vaccinated mice resulted in a significant reduction of bacterial load of the lungs and spleens as compared to levels seen in naïve controls or those vaccinated with subunit proteins, adjuvant , or BCG alone. The protection induced by the Mtb antigens and-GalCer vaccine through sublingual route correlated with a TH1-type immunity mediated by antigen-specific IFN-γ and IL-2 producing T cells.