Background. The ubiquitous opportunistic pathogen Pneumocystis jirovecii causes pneumonia in immunocompromised individuals, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected individuals, and pulmonary colonization with P. jirovecii is believed to be a cofactor in the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is no vaccine for P. jirovecii; however, most adults are seropositive, indicating natural immune priming to this pathogen. We have shown that humoral response to a recombinant subunit of the P. jirovecii protease kexin (KEX1) correlates with protection from P. jirovecii colonization and pneumonia.
Methods. Here we evaluated the immunogenicity and protective capacity of the recombinant KEX1 peptide vaccine in a preclinical, nonhuman primate model of HIV-induced immunosuppression and Pneumocystis coinfection.
Results. Immunization with KEX1 induced a robust humoral response remained at protective levels despite chronic simian immunodeficiency virus/HIV–induced immunosuppression. KEX1-immunized macaques were protected from Pneumocystis pneumonia, compared with mock-immunized animals (P = .047), following immunosuppression and subsequent natural, airborne exposure to Pneumocystis.
Conclusions. These data support the concept that stimulation of preexisting immunological memory to Pneumocystis with a recombinant KEX1 vaccine prior to immunosuppression induces durable memory responses and protection in the context of chronic, complex immunosuppression.