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Assessment of the Safety and Efficacy of an Oral Probiotic-Based Vaccine Against Aspergillus Infection in Captive-Bred Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti)

Publication Front Immunol, Thorel M. & Al. (BIPAR)
Aspergillosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in captive-bred penguin species. Currently, there is no registered vaccine to prevent aspergillosis. In this study, a collaborative group including veterinarians of the Beauval Zoo and researchers of the UMR-BIPAR found that Escherichia coli Nissle represents a safe potential probiotic-based vaccine with a protective effect against aspergillosis in Humboldt penguins that deserves to be further explored for therapeutic uses in these animals.

Recent research demonstrated that oral administration of gram-negative bacteria expressing high levels of galactose-α-1,3-galactose (α-Gal) modulates anti-α-Gal immunity and protects turkeys from clinical aspergillosis caused by experimental Aspergillus fumigatus infection.

In this study, we assessed the distribution of α-1,3-galactosyltransferase (α1,3GT) genes in the fecal microbiome of Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti). A trial was conducted to test whether oral administration of Escherichia coli Nissle, expressing high α-Gal levels, modulates anti-α-Gal immunity in a colony of Humboldt penguins. Anti-α-Gal Abs were detected in sera (IgM and IgY) and eggs (IgY) of healthy penguins. Microbiota analysis and functional predictions revealed the presence of α1,3GT genes in the microbiota of Humboldt penguins and other penguin species. A strong decrease in anti-α-Gal IgM levels was observed in all animals in the placebo group three months after vaccination protocol. This decrease was not observed in E. coli Nissle-treated penguins. After the vaccination protocol, we found a positive correlation between anti-E. coli IgY and anti-α-Gal IgY in the E. coli Nissle group, suggesting a correlation between the presence of the bacteria and these Abs. During the study period, three penguins exhibited respiratory signs consistent with aspergillosis. Two were from the placebo group whose symptoms resolved with specific treatments, while a single vaccinated individual developed fatal respiratory aspergillosis, eight months after the trial.

We conclude that E. coli Nissle represents a safe potential probiotic-based vaccine with a protective effect against aspergillosis in Humboldt penguins that deserves to be further explored for therapeutic uses in these animals.

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Reference:
Thorel M, Mateos-Hernandez L, Mulot B, Azzouni MN, Hodžić A, Gaillot H, Ruel Y, Desoubeaux G, Delaye J-B, Obregon D, Wu-Chuang A, de la Fuente J, Bermúdez-Humarán LG, Risco-Castillo V, Leclerc A, Cabezas-Cruz A. Assessment of the Safety and Efficacy of an Oral Probiotic-Based Vaccine Against Aspergillus Infection in Captive-Bred Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti). Front Immunol. 2022; 13:897223. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.897223