Recent research on Staphylococcus aureus vaccine development has focused on active immunization against Panton–Valentine leukocidin (PVL), a potent leukotoxin associated with both superficial and severe deep-seated infections. PVL prevalence is highly variable worldwide, but it is unknown to what extent immunity to PVL varies between patients from geographic areas with different PVL-positive S. aureus prevalences. We conducted a retrospective multicentric study of anti-PVL and anti-alpha-toxin (Hla) antibody levels in uninfected adult patients from France (low PVL prevalence; n = 200), Algeria (moderate prevalence; n = 143), and Senegal (high prevalence; n = 228). The antibody levels were quantified by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) procedure. Because Hla is present in virtually all S. aureus strains, its corresponding antibody levels were considered to reflect population exposure to S. aureus. Compared with French participants, the average anti-PVL antibody levels were 2.5-fold and 8.2-fold higher in Algerian and Senegalese participants, respectively (p < 0.001). Conversely, anti-Hla antibody levels did not differ between participants from the three countries, suggesting that the observed differences in anti-PVL antibody levels were not biased by variations in population exposure to S. aureus. Hence, anti-PVL antibody levels in the general populations of France, Algeria, and Senegal vary widely and match variations in PVL-positive S. aureus strain prevalence, with an increasing north-to-south gradient. To conclude, immunity to PVL in a given population correlates with local PVL prevalence. This finding can help to inform PVL vaccine strategies.
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