Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a strict human pathogen responsible for more than 100 million new sexually transmitted infections worldwide each year. Due to the global emergence of antibiotic resistance, the CDC recently listed N. gonorrhoeae as an urgent threat to public health. No vaccine is available in spite of the huge disease burden and the possibility of untreatable gonorrhea. The aim of this study is to investigate the immunogenicity of a novel whole-cell based inactivated gonococcal microparticle vaccine formulation loaded in dissolvable microneedles for transdermal administration. The nanotechnology-based vaccine formulation consists of inactivated whole-cell gonococci strain CDC-F62, spray dried and encapsulated into biodegradable cross-linked albumin matrix with sustained slow antigen release. The dry vaccine nanoparticles were then loaded in a dissolvable microneedle skin patch for transdermal delivery. The efficacy of the whole-cell microparticles vaccine formulation loaded in microneedles was assessed in vitro using dendritic ,cells and macrophages as well as in vivo mouse model. Antibody titers were measured using an ELISA and antigen-specific T lymphocytes were assessed in spleens and lymph nodes. Here we report that whole-cell based gonococcal microparticle vaccine loaded in dissolvable microneedles for transdermal administration induced significant increase in antigen-specific IgG antibody titers and antigen-specific CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes in mice compared to gonococcal antigens in solution or empty microneedles. Significant increase in antigen-specific IgG antibody levels was observed at end of week 2 in groups that received the vaccine compared to the group receiving empty nanoparticles. The advantages of using formalin-fixed whole-cell gonococci that all immunogenic epitopes are covered and preserved from degradation. The spherical shaped micro and nanoparticles are biological mimics of gonococci, therefore present to the immune system as invaders but without the ability to suppress adaptive immunity. In conclusion, the transdermal delivery of microparticles vaccine via a microneedle patch was shown to be an effective system for vaccine delivery. The novel gonorrhea nanovaccine is cheap to produce in a stable dry powder and can be delivered in microneedle skin patch obviating the need for needle use or the cold chain.
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