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Benn Felix, J;Chaki, SP;Xu, Y;Ficht, TA;Rice-Ficht, AC;Cook, WE;
An oral vaccine against anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) is urgently needed to prevent annual anthrax outbreaks that are causing catastrophic losses in free-ranging livestock and wildlife worldwide. The Sterne vaccine, the current injectable livestock vaccine, is a suspension of live attenuated B. anthracis Sterne strain 34F2 spores (Sterne spores) in saponin. It is not effective when administered orally and individual subcutaneous injections are not a practical method of vaccination for wildlife. In this study, we report the development of a microencapsulated oral vaccine against anthrax. Evaluating Sterne spore stability at varying pH’s in vitro revealed that spore exposure to pH 2 results in spore death, confirming that protection from the gastric environment is of main concern when producing an oral vaccine. Therefore, Sterne spores were encapsulated in alginate and coated with a protein shell containing poly-L-lysine (PLL) and vitelline protein B (VpB), a non-immunogenic, proteolysis resistant protein isolated from Fasciola hepatica. Capsule exposure to pH 2 demonstrated enhanced acid gel character suggesting that alginate microcapsules provided the necessary protection for spores to survive the gastric environment. Post vaccination IgG levels in BALBc/J mouse serum samples indicated that encapsulated spores induced anti-anthrax specific responses in both the subcutaneous and the oral vaccination groups. Furthermore, the antibody responses from both vaccination routes were protective against anthrax lethal toxin in vitro, suggesting that further optimization of this vaccine formulation may result in a reliable oral vaccine that will conveniently and effectively prevent anthrax in wildlife populations.