Background. The aim of this double-blind randomised vaccine-controlled trial was to assess the efficacy of a conjugate vaccine composed of Shigella sonnei O-specific polysaccharide bound to Pseudomonas aeruginosa recombinant exoprotein A (S sonnei-rEPA) and of an oral, live-attenuated Escherichia coli/S flexneri 2a (EcSf2a-2) hybrid vaccine among military recruits in Israel at high risk of exposure to Shigella spp. We report here our preliminary findings on the efficacy of S sonnei-rEPA; we have not documented sufficient cases to assess the efficacy of EcSf2a-2. Methods. Between April, 1993, and August, 1994, male Israeli military recruits aged 18-22 years were asked to take part in our study. We enrolled 1446 soldiers from seven separate field sites (groups A-G). Soldiers were randomly allocated one injection of S sonnei-rEPA and four doses of oral placebo (n = 576), four oral doses of EcSf2a-2 and one injection of saline placebo (n = 580), or one injection of meningococcal tetravalent control vaccine and four doses of oral placebo (n = 290). Because there were no cases of S flexneri 2a, the EcSf2a-2 and meningococcal vaccines were the control group. We defined S sonnei shigellosis as diarrhoea with a positive faecal culture for S sonnei. Each group of soldiers was followed up for 2.5-7.0 months. The primary endpoint was protective efficacy of S sonnei-rEPA against S sonnei shigellosis. Findings. Cases of culture-proven S sonnei shigellosis occurred in four groups of soldiers (groups A-D), which comprised 787 volunteers (312 received S sonnei-rEPA, 316 received EcSf2a-2, and 159 received meningococcal control vaccine). In groups A-C, cases of shigellosis occurred 70-155 days after vaccination, whereas in group D cases occurred after 1-17 days. In groups A-C, the attack rate of shigellosis was 2.2% in recipients of S sonnei-rEPA compared with 8.6% in controls (protective efficacy 74% [95% CI 28-100], p = 0.006). S sonnei-rEPA also showed significant protection against shigellosis in group D (43% [4-82], p = 0.039). Prevaccination and postvaccination ELISA measurements of antibody to S sonnei lipopolysaccharide among recipients of S sonnei-rEPA showed that the vaccinees who developed S sonnei shigellosis had significantly lower serum IgG and IgA responses to the homologous lipopolysaccharide than those who did not (p = < 0.05). Interpretation. One injection of S sonnei-rEPA confers type-specific protection against S sonnei shigellosis. The high antibody concentration induced by the conjugate vaccine in volunteers who did not develop shigellosis suggests that there is an association between serum antibody titre and protection.
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