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This article is the author’s final published version in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Volume 13, Issue 9, September 2019, Page e0007730.

The published version is available at Copyright © George et al.


BACKGROUND: The current strategy for the elimination of onchocerciasis is based on annual or bi-annual mass drug administration with ivermectin. However, due to several limiting factors there is a growing concern that elimination of onchocerciasis cannot be achieved solely through the current strategy. Additional tools are critically needed including a prophylactic vaccine. Presently Ov-103 and Ov-RAL-2 are the most promising vaccine candidates against an Onchocerca volvulus infection.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Protection induced by immunization of mice with the alum-adjuvanted Ov-103 or Ov-RAL-2 vaccines appeared to be antibody dependent since AID-/- mice that could not mount antigen-specific IgG antibody responses were not protected from an Onchocerca volvulus challenge. To determine a possible association between antigen-specific antibody responses and anti-larvae protective immunity in humans, we analyzed the presence of anti-Ov-103 and anti-Ov-RAL-2 cytophilic antibody responses (IgG1 and IgG3) in individuals classified as putatively immune, and in infected individuals who developed concomitant immunity with age. It was determined that 86% of putatively immune individuals and 95% individuals with concomitant immunity had elevated IgG1 and IgG3 responses to Ov-103 and Ov-RAL-2. Based on the elevated chemokine levels associated with protection in the Ov-103 or Ov-RAL-2 immunized mice, the profile of these chemokines was also analyzed in putatively immune and infected individuals; both groups contained significantly higher levels of KC, IP-10, MCP-1 and MIP-1β in comparison to normal human sera. Moreover, human monospecific anti-Ov-103 antibodies but not anti-Ov-RAL-2 significantly inhibited the molting of third-stage larvae (L3) in vitro by 46% in the presence of naïve human neutrophils, while both anti-Ov-103 and anti-Ov-RAL-2 antibodies significantly inhibited the molting by 70-80% when cultured in the presence of naive human monocytes. Interestingly, inhibition of molting by Ov-103 antibodies and monocytes was only in part dependent on contact with the cells, while inhibition of molting with Ov-RAL-2 antibodies was completely dependent on contact with the monocytes. In comparison, significant levels of parasite killing in Ov-103 and Ov-RAL-2 vaccinated mice only occurred when cells enter the parasite microenvironment. Taken together, antibodies to Ov-103 and Ov-RAL-2 and cells are required for protection in mice as well as for the development of immunity in humans.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Alum-adjuvanted Ov-103 and Ov-RAL-2 vaccines have the potential of reducing infection and thus morbidity associated with onchocerciasis in humans. The development of cytophilic antibodies, that function in antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, is essential for a successful prophylactic vaccine against this infection.

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