Chronic schistosomiasis suppresses HIV-specific responses to DNA-MVA and MVA-gp140 Env vaccine regimens despite antihelminthic treatment and increases helminth-associated pathology in a mouse model

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Godfrey A Dzhivhuho
  • Samantha A Rehrl
  • Hlumani Ndlovu
  • Frank Brombacher
  • Anna-Lise Williamson
  • Gerald K Chege

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
  • Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
  • Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.
  • Laboratory of Experimental and Molecular Immunology and Neurogenetics
  • South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.


Future HIV vaccines are expected to induce effective Th1 cell-mediated and Env-specific antibody responses that are necessary to offer protective immunity to HIV infection. However, HIV infections are highly prevalent in helminth endemic areas. Helminth infections induce polarised Th2 responses that may impair HIV vaccine-generated Th1 responses. In this study, we tested if Schistosoma mansoni (Sm) infection altered immune responses to SAAVI candidate HIV vaccines (DNA and MVA) and an HIV-1 gp140 Env protein vaccine (gp140) and whether parasite elimination by chemotherapy or the presence of Sm eggs (SmE) in the absence of active infection influenced the immunogenicity of these vaccines. In addition, we evaluated helminth-associated pathology in DNA and MVA vaccination groups. Mice were chronically infected with Sm and vaccinated with DNA+MVA in a prime+boost combination or MVA+gp140 in concurrent combination regimens. Some Sm-infected mice were treated with praziquantel (PZQ) prior to vaccinations. Other mice were inoculated with SmE before receiving vaccinations. Unvaccinated mice without Sm infection or SmE inoculation served as controls. HIV responses were evaluated in the blood and spleen while Sm-associated pathology was evaluated in the livers. Sm-infected mice had significantly lower magnitudes of HIV-specific cellular responses after vaccination with DNA+MVA or MVA+gp140 compared to uninfected control mice. Similarly, gp140 Env-specific antibody responses were significantly lower in vaccinated Sm-infected mice compared to controls. Treatment with PZQ partially restored cellular but not humoral immune responses in vaccinated Sm-infected mice. Gp140 Env-specific antibody responses were attenuated in mice that were inoculated with SmE compared to controls. Lastly, Sm-infected mice that were vaccinated with DNA+MVA displayed exacerbated liver pathology as indicated by larger granulomas and increased hepatosplenomegaly when compared with unvaccinated Sm-infected mice. This study shows that chronic schistosomiasis attenuates both HIV-specific T-cell and antibody responses and parasite elimination by chemotherapy may partially restore cellular but not antibody immunity, with additional data suggesting that the presence of SmE retained in the tissues after antihelminthic therapy contributes to lack of full immune restoration. Our data further suggest that helminthiasis may compromise HIV vaccine safety. Overall, these findings suggested a potential negative impact on future HIV vaccinations by helminthiasis in endemic areas.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007182
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2018