High monocyte to lymphocyte ratio is associated with impaired protection after subcutaneous administration of BCG in a mouse model of tuberculosis.
Zelmer A., Stockdale L., Prabowo SA., Cia F., Spink N., Gibb M., Eddaoudi A., Fletcher HA.
Background: The only available tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), has variable efficacy. New vaccines are therefore urgently needed. Why BCG fails is incompletely understood, and the tools used for early assessment of new vaccine candidates do not account for BCG variability. Taking correlates of risk of TB disease observed in human studies and back-translating them into mice to create models of BCG variability should allow novel vaccine candidates to be tested early in animal models that are more representative of the human populations most at risk. Furthermore, this could help to elucidate the immunological mechanisms leading to BCG failure. We have chosen the monocyte to lymphocyte (ML) ratio as a correlate of risk of TB disease and have back-translated this into a mouse model. Methods: Four commercially available, inbred mouse strains were chosen. We investigated their baseline ML ratio by flow cytometry; extent of BCG-mediated protection from M ycobacterium tuberculosis infection by experimental challenge; vaccine-induced interferon gamma (IFNγ) response by ELISPOT assay; and tissue distribution of BCG by plating tissue homogenates. Results: The ML ratio varied significantly between A/J, DBA/2, C57Bl/6 and 129S2 mice. A/J mice showed the highest BCG-mediated protection and lowest ML ratio, while 129S2 mice showed the lowest protection and higher ML ratio. We also found that A/J mice had a lower antigen specific IFNγ response than 129S2 mice. BCG tissue distribution appeared higher in A/J mice, although this was not statistically significant. Conclusions: These results suggest that the ML ratio has an impact on BCG-mediated protection in mice, in alignment with observations from clinical studies. A/J and 129S2 mice may therefore be useful models of BCG vaccine variability for early TB vaccine testing. We speculate that failure of BCG to protect from TB disease is linked to poor tissue distribution in a ML high immune environment.