Repost from The Inquirer and Mirror:
Tularemia diagnosed in four island residents

By Jason Graziadei
I&M Staff Writer

(Sept. 3, 2013) Four island residents have been diagnosed with the infectious disease tularemia, commonly known as rabbit fever, according to the Nantucket Health Department.

Town officials are urging island residents to avoid touching dead rabbits or other small animals, or approaching any animal that appears to be disoriented or sluggish. The Health Department is also advising landscapers to wear respirator masks when cutting grass over six inches tall to reduce the risk of exposure in the event a hidden animal is struck and the bacteria becomes aerosolized.

Tularemia, caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, can be transmitted to humans who handle sick or deceased animals or are bitten by infected ticks or deer flies, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also be transmitted by inhaling contaminated dusts or aerosols.

The disease, which can cause fever, skin ulcers, pneumonia, and is potentially life-threatening in rare cases, is most often treated and controlled successfully with antibiotics.

“We need the public to be aware,” Nantucket Health Department director Richard Ray said. “If there’s a dead animal near the side of the road, ignore it, do not let your animal go near it, and call the DPW to remove it. Please be careful about where your lawnmower goes and what it runs over. We’ve had a few cases over the years, but not four at one time.”

For complete coverage of this story, pick up Thursday’s Inquirer and Mirror.

Here at EpiVax we are currently collaborating to develop a protective vaccine against Francisella tularensis, one of the most infectious bacterial pathogens known, using our own world-class bioinformatics tools. We currently have two publications on our tularemia studies which you can view below.

tularemia bacteria Wild Rabbit - Don't touch me!

Diversity of Francisella tularensis Schu4 antigens recognized by T lymphocytes after natural infections in humans: Identification of candidate epitopes for inclusion in a rationally designed tularemia vaccine

The T lymphocyte antigens, which may have a role in protection against tularemia, were predicted by immunoinformatics analysis of Francisella tularensis Schu4. Twenty-seven class II putative promiscuous epitopes and 125 putative class I supertype epitopes were chosen for synthesis; peptides were tested in vitro for their ability to bind HLA and to induce immune responses from PBMCs of 23 previously infected subjects. While the immune responses of individual subjects showed heterogeneity, 95% of the subjects responded strongly to a pool of 27 promiscuous peptides; 25%, 33%, and 44% of subjects responded to pools of 25 A2, A24, and B7 peptides, respectively. These data can aid in the development of novel epitope-based and subunit tularemia vaccines.

Epitope-based Vaccination against Pneumonic Tularemia

Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia, is one of the most infectious bacterial pathogens known. No vaccine is currently approved for public use. Previously, we identified epitopes recognized specifically by T cells obtained from individuals following infection with F. tularensis. Here, we report that a subunit vaccine constructed based upon these epitopes elicited protective immunity in “humanized” HLA class II (DRB1*0401) transgenic mice. Vaccinated mice challenged intratracheally with a lethal dose of F. tularensis (Live Vaccine Strain) exhibited a rapid increase in pro-inflammatory cytokine production and diminished number of organisms in the lungs, and a concurrent increased rate of survival. These results demonstrate the efficacy of an epitope-based tularemia vaccine and suggest that such an approach might be widely applicable to the development of vaccines specific for intracellular bacterial pathogens.

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