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Congenital toxoplasmosis in the Balb/c mouse : prevention of vertical disease transmission and fetal death by vaccination

Roberts, C W and Brewer, J M and Alexander, J (1994) Congenital toxoplasmosis in the Balb/c mouse : prevention of vertical disease transmission and fetal death by vaccination. Vaccine, 12 (15). pp. 1389-1394. ISSN 0264-410X

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Vertical disease transmission only occurs in Balb/c mice infected with Toxoplasma gondii for the first time during pregnancy. This is similar to the situation in humans, where a previous infection with T. gondii tends to give life-long immunity against reinfection and fetal disease transmission. The Balb/c mouse therefore provides a suitable model to study the effectiveness of T. gondii vaccine candidates. A soluble tachyzoite antigen (STAB) preparation was used to vaccinate female Balb/c mice. STAB was inoculated subcutaneously into Balb/c mice in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), emulsified in Freund's complete adjuvant (FCA), or entrapped within non-ionic surfactant vesicles (NISV). While all inocula induced cellular immunity as measured by parasite-specific spleen cell proliferation in vitro, the highest mean proliferative values were observed in spleens from mice where NISV had been used as the adjuvant and the lowest values were observed where FCA had been used More importantly, cultures from the NISV/STAg vaccinated mice produced significantly more gamma-interferon than the other experimental groups. This vaccine formulation was therefore identified as that most likely to induce protective immunity against toxoplasmosis. Mice were inoculated subcutaneously with either NISV/STAg or STAg in PBS 4 and 2 weeks before mating and infected orally with 20 tissue cysts of T. gondii on day 12 of pregnancy. The incidence of fetal infection and death in these mice and non-vaccinated infected darns was compared. Of 84 pups born to 14 non-vaccinated darns 45 were viable, of which 18 were found to be infected on reaching maturity. All 67 of the pups born to the 11 dams vaccinated with STAg/NISV survived into maturity, of which a mere nine were infected. These studies emphasize that, given appropriate antigen and adjuvant preparations for vaccination, sufficient immunity can be generated in Balb/c dams to severely limit the likelihood of T. gondii-induced abortion and congenital disease.