DAR-901 is an inactivated whole cell tuberculosis booster vaccine, prepared using a new scalable, broth-grown method from the master cell bank of SRL172, a vaccine previously shown to prevent tuberculosis. This study examined whether DAR-901 (a) induces CD4+ T cell cytokine profiles previously proposed as correlates of protection and (b) has a specific vaccine-induced immunological signature compared to BCG or placebo.
We analysed CD4+ T cell cytokine immune responses from 10 DAR-901 recipients, 9 BCG recipients and 9 placebo recipients from the Phase I DAR-901 MDES trial. In that study, HIV-negative, IGRA-negative participants with prior BCG immunization were randomized (double-blind) to receive three intradermal injections of DAR-901 or saline placebo or two injections of saline placebo followed by an intradermal injection of BCG. Antigen-specific functional and phenotypic CD4+ T cell responses along with effector phenotype of responder cells were measured by intracellular cytokine staining.
DAR-901 recipients exhibited increased DAR-901 antigen-specific polyfunctional or bifunctional T cell responses compared to baseline. Vaccine specific CD4+ IFNγ, IL2, TNFα and any cytokine responses peaked at 7 days post-dose 3. Th1 responses predominated, with most responder cells exhibiting a polyfunctional effector memory phenotype. BCG inducedgreater CD4+ T cell responses than placebo while the more modest DAR-901 responses did not differ from placebo. Neither DAR-901 nor BCG induced substantial or sustained Th17 /Th22 cytokine responses.
DAR-901, a TB booster vaccine grown from the master cell bank of SRL 172 which was shown to prevent TB, induced low magnitude polyfunctional effector memory CD4+ T cell responses. DAR-901 responses were lower than those induced by BCG, a vaccine that has been shown ineffective as a booster to prevent tuberculosis disease. These results suggest that induction of higher levels of CD4+ cytokine stimulation may not be a critical or pre-requisite characteristic for candidate TB vaccine boosters.