The relative role that humoral immunity plays in protection against infection with the intracellular bacterium, Francisella tularensis, remains controversial. Cellular immunity is thought to play the major and perhaps only role. The authors, in this article, investigate the immunologic and protective properties of immune serum collected from human recipients of the live tularemia vaccine (LVS). Sera of recipients of the vaccine demonstrated reactivity with the vaccine strain by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot analysis. This reactivity appeared to be directed primarily against the lipopolysaccharide of LVS and demonstrated complete cross- reactivity with fully virulent F. tularensis (Schu4). Pooled immune sera protected mice fully against a 10,000 LD50 challenge with the LVS strain relative to non-immune sera. The protection was abrogated by dilution or preadsorption with the LVS strain but not by preadsorption with Escherichia coli, which suggests specificity of protection. The authors conclude that antibodies to the LVS strain of F. tularensis are generated by live vaccination in humans and play a significant role in protection of mice against lethal challenge with the same organism. These antibodies crossreact completely with fully virulent F. tularensis, but whether they play a role in protection against fully virulent human tularemia strains requires further experimentation.
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