Whether the intranasal (i.n.) route of
Mycobacterium bovisBCG vaccination provides better protection against pulmonary tuberculosis than subcutaneous (s.c.) vaccination remains an incompletely solved issue. In the present study, we compared both immune responses and protection elicited by single BCG vaccinations via the i.n. or s.c. route in BALB/c mice. While both i.n. and s.c. vaccination triggered comparable levels of primary immune activation in the spleen and draining lymph nodes, i.n. vaccination led to a greater antigen-specific gamma interferon recall response in splenocytes than s.c. vaccination upon secondary respiratory mycobacterial challenge, accompanied by an increased frequency of antigen-specific lymphocytes. There was also a quicker cellular response in the lungs of i.n. vaccinated mice upon mycobacterial challenge. Mice vaccinated i.n. were found to be much better protected, particularly in the lung, than s.c. vaccinated counterparts against pulmonary tuberculosis at both 3 and 6 months postvaccination. These results suggest that the i.n. route of vaccination improves the protective effect of the current BCG vaccine.