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Vaccines ; 10(2):30, 2022.
Article in English | Web of Science | ID: covidwho-1734771


"Bugs as drugs" in medicine encompasses the use of microbes to enhance the efficacy of vaccination, such as the delivery of vaccines by Leishmania-the protozoan etiological agent of leishmaniasis. This novel approach is appraised in light of the successful development of vaccines for Covid-19. All relevant aspects of this pandemic are summarized to provide the necessary framework in contrast to leishmaniasis. The presentation is in a side-by-side matching format with particular emphasis on vaccines. The comparative approach makes it possible to highlight the timeframe of the vaccine workflows condensed by the caveats of pandemic urgency and, at the same time, provides the background of Leishmania behind its use as a vaccine carrier. Previous studies in support of the latter are summarized as follows. Leishmaniasis confers life-long immunity on patients after cure, suggesting the effective vaccination is achievable with whole-cell Leishmania. A new strategy was developed to inactivate these cells in vitro, rendering them non-viable, hence non-disease causing, albeit retaining their immunogenicity and adjuvanticity. This was achieved by installing a dual suicidal mechanism in Leishmania for singlet oxygen (O-1(2))-initiated inactivation. In vitro cultured Leishmania were genetically engineered for cytosolic accumulation of UV-sensitive uroporphyrin I and further loaded endosomally with a red light-sensitive cationic phthalocyanine. Exposing these doubly dye-loaded Leishmania to light triggers intracellular production of highly reactive but extremely short-lived O-1(2), resulting in their rapid and complete inactivation. Immunization of susceptible animals with such inactivated Leishmania elicited immunity to protect them against experimental leishmaniasis. Significantly, the inactivated Leishmania was shown to effectively deliver transgenically add-on ovalbumin (OVA) to antigen-presenting cells (APC), wherein OVA epitopes were processed appropriately for presentation with MHC molecules to activate epitope-specific CD8+ T cells. Application of this approach to deliver cancer vaccine candidates, e.g., enolase-1, was shown to suppress tumor development in mouse models. A similar approach is predicted to elicit lasting immunity against infectious diseases, including complementation of the spike protein-based vaccines in use for COVID-19. This pandemic is devastating, but brings to light the necessity of considering many facets of the disease in developing vaccination programs. Closer collaboration is essential among those in diverse disciplinary areas to provide the roadmap toward greater success in the future. Highlighted herein are several specific issues of vaccinology and new approaches worthy of consideration due to the pandemic.