The role of Abs in protection against respiratory infection with the intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis is not clear. To investigate the ability of Abs to clear bacteria from the lungs and prevent systemic spread, immune serum was passively administered i.p. to naive mice before intranasal F. tularensis live vaccine strain infection. It was found that immune serum treatment provided 100% protection against lethal challenge while normal serum or Ig-depleted immune serum provided no protection. Protective efficacy was correlated with increased clearance of bacteria from the lung and required expression of FcγR on phagocytes, including macrophages and neutrophils. However, complement was not required for protection. In vitro experiments demonstrated that macrophages were more readily infected by Ab-opsonized bacteria but became highly efficient in killing upon activation by IFN-γ. Consistent with this finding, in vivo Ab-mediated protection was found to be dependent upon IFN-γ. SCID mice were not protected by passive Ab transfer, suggesting that T cells but not NK cells serve as the primary source for IFN-γ. These data suggest that a critical interaction of humoral and cellular immune responses is necessary to provide sterilizing immunity against F. tularensis. Of considerable interest was the finding that serum Abs were capable of conferring protection against lethal respiratory tularemia when given 24-48 h postexposure. Thus, this study provides the first evidence for the therapeutic use of Abs in Francisella -infected individuals.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy