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Safety and immunogenicity of co-administered hookworm vaccine candidates Na-GST-1 and Na-APR-1 in Gabonese adults: a randomised, controlled, double-blind, phase 1 dose-escalation trial.

BACKGROUND: Hookworms cause substantial morbidity in children and women of reproductive age. The control strategy of mass drug administration is suboptimal, hence the need for a vaccine. Necator americanus aspartic protease-1 (Na-APR-1) and N americanus glutathione S-transferase-1 (Na-GST-1) are involved in the digestion and detoxification of haemoglobin in the hookworm digestive tract. In animal models, vaccination against these antigens resulted in protection from challenge infection. Both vaccine candidates were shown to be safe and well tolerated when administered separately to healthy adults. We assessed the safety and immunogenicity of co-administered Na-GST-1 and Na-APR-1 (M74) vaccines in healthy Gabonese adults.

METHODS: This randomised, controlled, double-blind, phase 1, dose-escalation trial was done at the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné, in a region of Gabon where N americanus and other helminths are prevalent. Healthy adults aged 18-50 years and living in Lambaréné or the surrounding areas were recruited to the study. Participants were enrolled consecutively into two dose cohorts (30 μg or 100 μg of the experimental vaccines) and randomly assigned in blocks (block size four) to receive three doses of either co-administered Na-GST-1 plus Na-APR-1 (M74; 30 μg or 100 μg of each), adjuvanted with Alhydrogel (aluminium hydroxide gel suspension) together with an aqueous formulation of glucopyranosyl lipid A, or hepatitis B vaccine plus saline (control group). Vaccines were administered intramuscularly on days 0, 28, and 180. The primary endpoint was safety, with immunogenicity a secondary endpoint. The intention-to-treat population was used for safety analyses, whereas for immunogenicity analyses, the per-protocol population was used (participants who received all scheduled vaccinations). Control vaccine recipients for both dose cohorts were combined for the analyses. The trial is registered with, NCT02126462.

FINDINGS: Between Oct 27, 2014, and Jan 31, 2015, 56 individuals were screened for eligibility, of whom 32 were enrolled and randomly assigned to one of the three study groups (12 each in the 30 μg and 100 μg experimental vaccine groups and eight in the control group). Both study vaccines were well tolerated in both dose groups. The most common adverse events were mild-to-moderate injection-site pain, headache, myalgia, and nausea. No severe or serious adverse events related to the vaccines were recorded. 52 unsolicited vaccine-related adverse events occurred during the study, but there was no difference in frequency between vaccine groups. IgG antibodies were induced to each of the vaccine antigens, with mean IgG levels increasing after each vaccination. Vaccination with 100 μg of each vaccine antigen consistently induced IgG seroconversion (IgG levels above the reactivity threshold). Peak IgG responses were observed 2 weeks after the third vaccine dose for both antigens, with all participants who received the 100 μg doses seroconverting at that timepoint. IgG levels steadily declined until the final study visit 6 months after the third vaccination, although they remained significantly higher than baseline in the 100 μg dose group.

INTERPRETATION: Vaccination with recombinant Na-GST-1 and Na-APR-1 (M74) in healthy adults living in N americanus-endemic areas of Gabon was safe and induced IgG to each antigen. To our knowledge, this study is the first to report results of Na-APR-1 (M74) co-administered with Alhydrogel in participants from an N americanus-endemic area. Further clinical development of these vaccines should involve efficacy studies.

FUNDING: European Union Seventh Framework Programme.

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