Shigella flexneri 2a strain CVD 1204, which was constructed by introducing a specific, in-frame deletion mutation in the guaB-A operon, was compared with deltaaroA strain CVD 1201. CVD 1204 was less invasive for HeLa cells than CVD 1201, whereas following invasion, the abilities of the two mutants to proliferate intracellularly were similarly impaired. The reduction in invasiveness was independent of the guanine auxotrophic phenotype and fully recovered when the chromosomal deletion mutation in CVD 1204 was repaired. Following inoculation of the conjunctival sac of guinea pigs (Serény test) at high doses (10(9) CFU per eye), both strains evoked minimal, short- lived conjunctival inflammation, which was significantly milder with strain CVD 1204. Double mutant deltaguaB-A deltavirG (also called icsA) strain CVD 1205 induced, after a single intranasal dose, high mucosal immunoglobulin A antilipopolysaccharide titers, which were significantly boosted further following a second dose of vaccine given 14 days later. Upon Serény test challenge with wild-type S. flexneri 2a, CVD 1205-vaccinated animals were significantly protected against keratoconjunctivitis (zero of eight vaccinees versus five of seven controls, P = 0.03; vaccine efficacy, 100%). CVD 1205 is an attractive candidate for human clinical trials.