Background It has been suggested that exposure to certain microbes and their products, particularly during neonatal and early childhood periods, may shift the immune response towards a T-helper cell (Th) 1 phenotype and thereby prevent the development of and/or alleviate the clinical symptoms of allergic airway diseases.
Objective We evaluated the ability of the live vaccine strain (LVS) of Francisella tularensis to suppress airway eosinophilia and pulmonary pathology in a murine model of allergic airway disease.
Methods C57BL/6 mice were sensitized by intraperitoneal injection of ovalbumin (OVA) on days 1 and 14, and challenged intranasally (i.n.) with OVA on day 21 or thereafter. Some sensitized mice were i.n. treated with live LVS or its cell-free sonicate extract (CFSE) before i.n. OVA challenge. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, regional lymph node cells, lung tissues and serum samples were collected 3–7 days after the i.n. challenge.
Results Intranasal and, to a lesser degree, intradermal immunization of OVA-sensitized mice with LVS suppressed the development of airway eosinophilia and associated pulmonary pathology induced by i.n. OVA challenge. Moreover, CFSE prepared from LVS showed a similar inhibitory effect whereas neither LPS nor DNA purified from F. tularensis LVS had such an effect. The inhibition was associated with the reduction in mRNA expression and protein levels of Th2 cytokines IL-5 and IL-13 in the lungs and the enhanced production of OVA-induced IFN-γ by local draining lymph node cells, but not with the serum levels of OVA-specific IgG1 or IgE.
Conclusion F. tularensis LVS is capable of suppressing allergic airway inflammation probably through a Th1-mediated suppression of an ongoing Th2 response mechanism, and raises the possibility of exploring LVS and its components as potential therapeutic modalities for human allergic asthma.