Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Buruli ulcer, caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, is characterized by deep and necrotizing skin lesions, mostly on the arms and legs. Together with tuberculosis and leprosy, this mycobacterial disease has become a major health problem in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in central and western Africa. No specific vaccine is available for Buruli ulcer. There is, however, evidence in the literature that suggests a cross-reactive protective role of the tuberculosis vaccine M. bovis BCG. To identify potential mechanisms for this cross-protection, we identified and characterized the M. ulcerans homologue of the important protective mycobacterial antigen 85 (Ag85A) from BCG. The homologue is well conserved in M. ulcerans, showing 84.1% amino acid sequence identity and 91% conserved residues compared to the sequence from BCG. This antigen was sufficiently conserved to allow cross-reactive protection, as demonstrated by the ability of M. ulcerans- infected mice to exhibit strong cellular immune responses to both BCG and its purified Ag85 complex. To further address the mechanism of cross-reactive protection, we demonstrate here that prior vaccination with either BCG or plasmid DNA encoding BCG Ag85A is capable of significantly reducing the bacterial load in the footpads of M. ulcerans- infected mice, as determined by Ziehl-Neelsen staining and by actual counting of CFU on 7H11 Middlebrook agar. Together, the results reported here support the potential of a cross-protective Ag85-based future vaccine against tuberculosis, Buruli ulcer, and leprosy.