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Development of a recombinant toxin fragment vaccine for Clostridium difficile infection

Karczewski, J;Zorman, J;Wang, S;Miezeiewski, M;Xie, J;Soring, K;Petrescu, I;Rogers, I;Thiriot, DS;Cook, JC;Chamberlin, M;Xoconostle, RF;Nahas, DD;Joyce, JG;Bodmer, JL;Heinrichs, JH;Secore, S;

Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis, a disease associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The disease is mostly of nosocomial origin, with elderly patients undergoing anti-microbial therapy being particularly at risk. C. difficile produces two large toxins: Toxin A (TcdA) and Toxin B (TcdB). The two toxins act synergistically to damage and impair the colonic epithelium, and are primarily responsible for the pathogenesis associated with CDI. The feasibility of toxin-based vaccination against C. difficile is being vigorously investigated. A vaccine based on formaldehyde-inactivated Toxin A and Toxin B (toxoids) was reported to be safe and immunogenic in healthy volunteers and is now undergoing evaluation in clinical efficacy trials. In order to eliminate cytotoxic effects, a chemical inactivation step must be included in the manufacturing process of this toxin-based vaccine. In addition, the large-scale production of highly toxic antigens could be a challenging and costly process. Vaccines based on non-toxic fragments of genetically engineered versions of the toxins alleviate most of these limitations. We have evaluated a vaccine assembled from two recombinant fragments of TcdB and explored their potential as components of a novel experimental vaccine against CDI. Golden Syrian hamsters vaccinated with recombinant fragments of TcdB combined with full length TcdA (Toxoid A) developed high titer IgG responses and potent neutralizing antibody titers. We also show here that the recombinant vaccine protected animals against lethal challenge with C. difficile spores, with efficacy equivalent to the toxoid vaccine. The development of a two-segment recombinant vaccine could provide several advantages over toxoid TcdA/TcdB such as improvements in manufacturability.