Cytokine gene expression in naïve and previously infected sheep and lambs after challenge with the abomasal nematode teladorsagia circumcincta
Craig, Nicola Margaret
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The abomasal helminth Teladorsagia circumcincta is one of the most economically important parasites to affect the farming of sheep and goats. T.circumcincta infection is particularly detrimental to lambs, in which it can cause pronounced morbidity and severe production losses. Due to the spreading resistance of this parasite to all currently available classes of anthelmintic drugs, it is having an increasingly severe impact on the sheep industry with significant implications for sheep welfare. Infection of sheep with T.circumcincta triggers local changes in the abomasum characteristic of a T helper type-2 (Th2) driven immune response, including local eosinophilia, mastocytosis and increased mucus production, which leads to expulsion of the parasite. However, this protective immunity develops slowly during repeated exposure, wanes rapidly, and does not appear to be evident in young lambs. Vaccination to provoke early onset of protective immunity has therefore been suggested as an alternative means of control in the face of spreading anthelmintic resistance. Greater understanding of the development of immunity to T.circumcincta, and why this is delayed in lambs, would be useful in vaccine development. This thesis focuses on cytokine transcription profiling of the ovine abomasal mucosa and local lymphatic tissues. Changes in cytokine transcription over the course of a challenge infection with T.circumcincta were defined in helminth naïve sheep, and in previously infected sheep which have developed a degree of immunity during an eight week trickle infection, to clarify the mechanisms by which this immunity is orchestrated. This work demonstrated a clear Th2 cytokine response in the abomasal mucosa over the course of infection, which developed earlier and was more pronounced in the previously infected sheep; possibly owing to a population of polarised Th2-type cells built up during the previous infection. Suppression of Th1 cytokine transcription was also a prominent finding in the draining lymph node, which likewise occurred earlier in the previously infected sheep. Repetition of this experiment using younger lambs provided a possible explanation for the reduced resistance to T.circumcincta in this age group. While Th2 and proinflammatory cytokine responses in the abomasal mucosa demonstrated similar trends to those found in the older sheep, little suppression of Th1 cytokine transcription was observed in the draining lymph node. It is therefore suggested that the increased susceptibility of young lambs to T.circumcincta is not due to an inability to generate adequate Th2 responses, but an inability to suppress transcription of antagonistic Th1 cytokines.