Oral immunization with OspC does not prevent tick-borne borrelia burgdorferi infection

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Oral vaccination strategies are of interest to prevent transmission of Lyme disease as they can be used to deliver vaccines to humans, pets, and to natural wildlife reservoir hosts of Borrelia burgdorferi. We developed a number of oral vaccines based in E. coli expressing recombinant OspC type K, OspB, BBK32 from B. burgdorferi, and Salp25, Salp15 from Ixodes scapularis. Of the five immunogenic candidates only OspC induced significant levels of antigen-specific IgG and IgA when administered to mice via the oral route. Antibodies to OspC did not prevent dissemination of B. burgdorferi as determined by the presence of spirochetes in ear, heart and bladder tissues four weeks after challenge. Next generation sequencing of genomic DNA from ticks identified multiple phyletic types of B. burgdorferi OspC (A, D, E, F, I, J, K, M, Q, T, X) in nymphs that engorged on vaccinated mice. PCR amplification of OspC types A and K from flat and engorged nymphal ticks, and from heart and bladder tissues collected after challenge confirmed sequencing analysis. Quantification of spirochete growth in a borreliacidal assay shows that both types of spirochetes (A and K) survived in the presence of OspC-K specific serum whereas the spirochetes were killed by OspA specific serum. We show that oral vaccination of C3H-HeN mice with OspC-K induced significant levels of antigen-specific IgG. However, these serologic antibodies did not protect mice from infection with B. burgdorferi expressing homologous or heterologous types of OspC after tick challenge.




Melo, R., Richer, L., Johnson, D. L., & Gomes-Solecki, M. (2016). Oral immunization with OspC does not prevent tick-borne borrelia burgdorferi infection. PLoS ONE, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0151850

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