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This article is the author's final published version in Vaccines, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2024, Article number 78.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2024 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


Lyme disease (LD) is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States (U.S.), Europe, and Asia. Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete bacterium transmitted by the tick vector Ixodes scapularis, causes LD in the U.S. If untreated, Lyme arthritis, heart block, and meningitis can occur. Given the absence of a human Lyme disease vaccine, we developed a vaccine using the rabies virus (RABV) vaccine vector BNSP333 and an outer surface borrelial protein, BBI39. BBI39 was previously utilized as a recombinant protein vaccine and was protective in challenge experiments; therefore, we decided to utilize this protective antigen in a rabies virus-vectored vaccine against Borrelia burgdorferi. To incorporate BBI39 into the RABV virion, we generated a chimeric BBI39 antigen, BBI39RVG, by fusing BBI39 with the final amino acids of the RABV glycoprotein by molecular cloning and viral recovery with reverse transcription genetics. Here, we have demonstrated that the BBI39RVG antigen was incorporated into the RABV virion via immunofluorescence and Western blot analysis. Mice vaccinated with our BPL inactivated RABV-BBI39RVG (BNSP333-BBI39RVG) vaccine induced high amounts of BBI39-specific antibodies, which were maintained long-term, up to eight months post-vaccination. The BBI39 antibodies neutralized Borrelia in vaccinated mice when challenged with Borrelia burgdorferi by either syringe injection or infected ticks and they reduced the Lyme disease pathology of arthritis in infected mouse joints. Overall, the RABV-based LD vaccine induced more and longer-term antibodies compared to the recombinant protein vaccine. This resulted in lower borrelial RNA in RABV-based vaccinated mice compared to recombinant protein vaccinated mice. The results of this study indicate the successful use of BBI39 as a vaccine antigen and RABV as a vaccine vector for LD.

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