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Genetic background impacts vaccine-induced reduction of pneumococcal colonization.


Vaccination has been one of the most successful strategies to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by respiratory infections. Recent evidence suggests that differences in the host genetic background and environmental factors may contribute to heterogeneity in the immune response to vaccination. During pre-clinical testing, vaccines are often evaluated in a single mouse inbred strain, which may not translate well to the heterogeneous human population. Here, we examined the influence of host genetic background on vaccine-induced protection against pneumococcal colonization in two commonly used inbred mouse strains, i.e. C57BL/6 and BALB/cas well as the F1 cross of these two strains. Groups of mice were vaccinated intranasally with a vaccine formulation containing a model pneumococcal antigen, i.e. pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA), adjuvanted with cholera toxin subunit B (CTB). Even in the absence of vaccination, differences in colonization density were observed between mouse strains. Although vaccination significantly reduced pneumococcal density in all mouse strains, differences were observed in the magnitude of protection. We therefore examined immunological parameters known to be involved in vaccine-induced mucosal clearance of S. pneumoniae. We found that PspA-specific IgG levels in nasal tissue differed between mouse strains, but in all cases it correlated significantly with a reduction in colonization. Furthermore, increased mucosal IL17A, but not IFNγ, IL10, or IL4, was found to be mouse strain specific. This suggests that the reduction of bacterial load may be accompanied by a Th17 response in all genetic backgrounds, although the cytokine dynamics may differ. Increased insight into the different immune mechanisms that affect pneumococcal carriage will contribute to development of future vaccines against S. pneumoniae.