In contrast to immunity against some other facultative intracellular parasites, protective immunity against Brucella abortus is mediated in mice by antibodies as well as by cell-mediated immune responses. It was the purpose of this study to determine whether antibody alone would prevent infection with B. abortus. The majority (82%) of CD-1 outbred mice infected with 100 CFU of virulent B. abortus 2308 preincubated with graded quantities of an O polysaccharide-specific IgG2a monoclonal antibody (MAb) were free of infection 1. 2, 4, and 6 weeks later, based on detection limits of 13 brucellae per spleen and 39 per liver. Infection was present in 95% of control animals. Similar results were obtained with a challenge dose of 500 CFU, but with a challenge dose of 5,000 CFU, infection became established even with the highest concentration of MAb used (50 micrograms of MAb per 5,000 brucellae). Pretreatment with an O polysaccharide-specific IgG1 MAb or with convalescent-phase serum diminished but did not prevent establishment of infection by 100 CFU of B. abortus. A majority of culture-negative mice tested 6 weeks after infection were serologically negative, which could have signified either the absence of previous infection or the early elimination of infection. In an in vitro test system, all of the antibody preparations were efficient in opsonizing B. abortus. Effective killing of the organism by unelicited mouse peritoneal macrophages occurred in conventional but not in endotoxin-free medium, suggesting that activated macrophages were required for killing of opsonized B. abortus. These results emphasize the potential importance of antibodies in the immunoprophylaxis of brucellosis and suggest that the design of a successful vaccine will require the induction of antibodies not only of appropriate specificity but also of the optimal isotype for mediating protective functions
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