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Boosting BCG-primed responses with a subunit Apa vaccine during the waning phase improves immunity and imparts protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis
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    Sci Rep
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    Heterologous prime-boosting has emerged as a powerful vaccination approach against tuberculosis. However, optimal timing to boost BCG-immunity using subunit vaccines remains unclear in clinical trials. Here, we followed the adhesin Apa-specific T-cell responses in BCG-primed mice and investigated its BCG-booster potential. The Apa-specific T-cell response peaked 32-52 weeks after parenteral or mucosal BCG-priming but waned significantly by 78 weeks. A subunit-Apa-boost during the contraction-phase of BCG-response had a greater effect on the magnitude and functional quality of specific cellular and humoral responses compared to a boost at the peak of BCG-response. The cellular response increased following mucosal BCG-prime-Apa-subunit-boost strategy compared to Apa-subunit-prime-BCG-boost approach. However, parenteral BCG-prime-Apa-subunit-boost by a homologous route was the most effective strategy in-terms of enhancing specific T-cell responses during waning in the lung and spleen. Two Apa-boosters markedly improved waning BCG-immunity and significantly reduced Mycobacterium tuberculosis burdens post-challenge. Our results highlight the challenges of optimization of prime-boost regimens in mice where BCG drives persistent immune-activation and suggest that boosting with a heterologous vaccine may be ideal once the specific persisting effector responses are contracted. Our results have important implications for design of prime-boost regimens against tuberculosis in humans.

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