A vaccine against Streptococcus pyogenes: the potential to prevent rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.
[acute rheumatic fever]
Streptococcus pyogenes causes severe, invasive infections such as the sequelae associated with acute rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease, acute glomerulonephritis, uncomplicated pharyngitis, and pyoderma. Efforts to produce a vaccine against S. pyogenes began several decades ago, and different models have been proposed. We have developed a vaccine candidate peptide, StreptInCor, comprising 55 amino acid residues of the C-terminal portion of the M protein and encompassing both the T- and B-cell protective epitopes. The present article summarizes data from the previous 5 years during which we tested the immunogenicity and safety of StreptInCor in different animal models. We showed that StreptInCor overlapping peptides induced cellular and humoral immune responses of individuals bearing different HLA class II molecules. These results are consistent with peptides that have a universal vaccine epitope. The tridimensional molecular structure of StreptInCor was elucidated by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which showed that its structure is composed of two microdomains linked by an 18-residue α-helix. Additionally, we comprehensively evaluated the structural stability of the StreptInCor peptide in different physicochemical conditions using circular dichroism. Additional experiments were performed with inbred, outbred, and HLA class II transgenic mice. Analysis of several organs of these mice showed neither deleterious nor autoimmune reactions even after a long period of vaccination, indicating that the StreptInCor candidate peptide could be considered as an immunogenic and safe vaccine.