Immunological Consequences of Infection and Vaccination in South American Trypanosomiasis [and Discussion]

L. Hudson, M. J. Turner

Abstract

Trypanosoma cruzi infection provokes a vigorous immune response that terminates the parasitaemia associated with the acute stage within two to three months of initial infection. Even so, a variable proportion of patients may develop severe Chagas' disease, often decades after initial infection. Recent experimental findings suggest that trypomastigotes of T. cruzi possess a surface bound neuraminidase and sugar binding protein by means of which they invade host cells - a mechanism very reminiscent of influenza virus. Studies of the antibody response to trypomastigotes in patients or murine models have identified a series of antibodies able to mediate lysis of live parasites in a complement mediated lysis (c.m.l.) assay. These antibodies have also been linked to resistance to infection in vivo and disappear following successful parasitological `cure' in drug-treated animals and human patients. Immunochemical studies have shown that sera from infected patients or mice lacking this c.m.l. activity also lack those antibodies able to bind trypomastigote surface components of 85 and 160 kDa relative molecular mass. The availability of rabbit and mouse models of Chagas' disease have produced data that suggest that chronic stage pathology may have an immunological basis dependent on the known cross reactivity between host and parasite cells. Delivery of the lethal hit leading to host cell destruction is probably facilitated by the ability of parasite antigens to bind to host cells thus exposing them to the host's own anti-parasite immune response. If Chagas' disease does indeed have an immunological basis, then this might be controlled in turn by immunoregulation, in a manner analogous to that achieved in experimental allergic encephalomyelitis.