Immunization with one Theileria parva strain results in similar level of CTL strain-specificity and protection compared to immunization with the three-component Muguga cocktail in MHC-matched animals

Background The tick-borne protozoan parasite Theileria parva causes a usually fatal cattle disease known as East Coast fever in sub-Saharan Africa, with devastating consequences for poor small-holder farmers. Immunity to T. parva, believed to be mediated by a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response, is induced following natural infection and after vaccination with a live vaccine, known as the Infection and Treatment Method (ITM). The most commonly used version of ITM is a combination of parasites derived from three isolates (Muguga, Kiambu 5 and Serengeti-transformed), known as the “Muguga cocktail”. The use of a vaccine comprising several strains is believed to be required to induce a broad immune response effective against field challenge. In this study we investigated whether immunization with the Muguga cocktail induces a broader CTL response than immunization with a single strain (Muguga). Results Four MHC haplotype-matched pairs of cattle were immunized with either the trivalent Muguga cocktail or the single Muguga strain. CTL specificity was assessed on a panel of five different strains, and clonal responses to these strains were also assessed in one of the MHC-matched pairs. We did not find evidence for a broader CTL response in animals immunized with the Muguga cocktail compared to those immunized with the Muguga strain alone, in either the bulk or clonal CTL analyses. This was supported by an in vivo trial in which all vaccinated animals survived challenge with a lethal dose of the Muguga cocktail vaccine stabilate. Conclusion We did not observe any substantial differences in the immunity generated from animals immunized with either Muguga alone or the Muguga cocktail in the animals tested here, corroborating earlier results showing limited antigenic diversity in the Muguga cocktail. These results may warrant further field studies using single T. parva strains as future vaccine candidates.