Purpose: Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine has widely been used to immunize against tuberculosis, but its protective efficacy is variable in adult pulmonary tuberculosis, while it is not efficiently protective against progressive infection of virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains. In this study, the protective effects of plasmid DNA vaccine constructs encoding IL-12 or IL-18 with the BCG vaccine were evaluated against progressive infection of M. tuberculosis, using mouse aerosol challenge model. Materials and Methods: Plasmid DNA vaccine constructs encoding IL-12 or IL-18 were constructed and mice were immunized with the BCG vaccine or with IL-12 DNA or IL-18 DNA vaccine constructs together with the BCG vaccine. Results: The BCG vaccine induced high level of interferon gamma (IFN-γ) but co-immunization of IL-12 or IL-18 DNA vaccine constructs with the BCG vaccine induced significantly higher level of IFN-γ than a single BCG vaccine. The BCG vaccine was highly protective at early stage of M. tuberculosis infection, but its protective efficacy was reduced at later stage of infection. The co-immunization of IL-12 DNA vaccine constructs with the BCG vaccine was slightly more protective at early stage of infection and was significantly more protective at later stage infection than a single BCG vaccine. Conclusion: Co-immunization of IL-12 DNA vaccine with the BCG vaccine induced more protective immunity and was more effective for protection against progressive infection of M. tuberculosis.
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