Background: Population control of domestic, wild, invasive, and captive animal species is a global issue of importance to public health, animal welfare and the economy. There is pressing need for effective, safe, and inexpensive contraceptive technologies to address this problem. Contraceptive vaccines, designed to stimulate the immune system in order to block critical reproductive events and suppress fertility, may provide a solution. Filamentous bacteriophages can be used as platforms for development of such vaccines.
Objective: In this review authors highlight structural and immunogenic properties of filamentous phages, and discuss applications of phage-peptide vaccines for advancement of immunocontraception technology in animals.
Results: Phages can be engineered to display fusion (non-phage) peptides as coat proteins. Such modifications can be accomplished via genetic manipulation of phage DNA, or by chemical conjugation of synthetic peptides to phage surface proteins. Phage fusions with antigenic determinants induce humoral as well as cell-mediated immune responses in animals, making them attractive as vaccines. Additional advantages of the phage platform include environmental stability, low cost, and safety for immunized animals and those administering the vaccines.
Conclusion: Filamentous phages are viable platforms for vaccine development that can be engineered with molecular and organismal specificity. Phage-based vaccines can be produced in abundance at low cost, are environmentally stable, and are immunogenic when administered via multiple routes. These features are essential for a contraceptive vaccine to be operationally practical in animal applications. Adaptability of the phage platform also makes it attractive for design of human immunocontraceptive agents.