Adam Polkinghornea, Kenneth Beagleya, Peter Timmsa,∗
a Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, 60 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove, Qld 4059, Australia
b Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane, Qld 4519, Australia
Chlamydia continues to be a major pathogen of koalas. The bacterium is associated with ocular, respiratory and urogenital tract infections and a vaccine is considered the best option to limit the decline of mainland koala populations. Over the last 20 years, efforts to develop a chlamydial vaccine in humans have focussed on the use of the chlamydial major outer membrane protein (MOMP). Potential problems with the use of MOMP-based vaccines relate to the wide range of genetic diversity in its four variable domains. In the present study, we evaluated the immune response of koalas vaccinated with a MOMP-based C. pecorum vaccine formulated with genetically and serologically diverse MOMPs. Animals immunised with individual MOMPs developed strong antibody and lymphocyte proliferation responses to both homologous as well as heterologous MOMP proteins. Importantly, we also showed that vaccine induced antibodies which effectively neutralised various heterologous strains of koala C. pecorum in an in vitro assay. Finally, we also demonstrated that the immune responses in monovalent as well as polyvalent MOMP vaccine groups were able to recognise whole chlamydial elementary bodies, illustrating the feasibility of developing an effective MOMP based C. pecorum vaccine that could protect against a range of strains.