The Mycobacterium tuberculosis phoP mutant strain SO2 has previously been shown to have reduced multiplication in mouse macrophages and in vivo using the mouse intravenous-infection model. In this study we demonstrate that the M. tuberculosis SO2 is highly attenuated when compared with the parental M. tuberculosis MT103 strain and also more attenuated than BCG in severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID) mice. Complementation of the M. tuberculosis SO2 with the wild-type phoP gene restored the virulence of the strain in the SCID mice, confirming that the attenuated phenotype is due to the phoP mutation. In Balb/c mice subcutaneously vaccinated with either M. tuberculosis SO2 or BCG, the proportions of CD4+ and CD8+ populations measured in the spleen were significantly higher in the M. tuberculosis SO2 vaccinated group. In addition, the proportion of antigen-stimulated CD4+/ CD8+ cells expressing IFN-γ was significantly higher in the M. tuberculosis SO2 vaccinated group when compared with the BCG group. Balb/c mice subcutaneously vaccinated with the M. tuberculosis SO2 strain were also protected against intra-venous challenge with M. tuberculosis H37Rv at levels comparable to mice vaccinated with BCG, as measured by reduced bacterial counts in lung and spleens. Guinea pigs subcutaneously vaccinated with the M. tuberculosis SO2 strain were protected against aerosol challenge with M. tuberculosis H37Rv delivered at different doses. A high dose aerosol challenge of M. tuberculosis SO2 vaccinated guinea pigs resulted in superior levels of protection when compared with BCG vaccination, as measured by guinea pig survival and reduction in disease severity in the lung. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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