Comparisons were made of the immune and inflammatory responses of four strains of inbred mice to infection with the intestinal nematodes Trichinella spiralis and Nippostrongylus brasiliensis to determine whether genetically determined ‘high responsiveness’ to infection, seen most clearly in intestinal responses, is independent of the parasite concerned and necessarily correlated with protection. The time course of infection was followed by counting adult worms at intervals after infection. Mucosal mast cells and Paneth cell numbers were determined as indices of the intestinal inflammatory response. Levels of IgG2a and IgG1 antibodies and of the cytokines IFN-γ and IL-5 released from in vitro-stimulated mesenteric node lymphocytes were measured to assess type 1 and type 2 responses. NIH and CBA mice were the most resistant to T. spiralis and N. brasiliensis respectively, resistance in each case being correlated with the most intense intestinal inflammatory responses. C57BL/10 (B10) and B10.BR were the least resistant to T. spiralis, but were as resistant as CBA to N. brasiliensis, despite their intestinal inflammatory responses to both parasites being much lower than the other two strains. Mice infected with T. spiralis made the expected switch from a type 1 (IFN-γ) to a type 2 (IL-5) response between days 2 and 8, and there were no significant differences in levels of these cytokines between the strains. In contrast, when infected with N. brasiliensis, CBA showed an IFN-γ response at day 4, all strains switching to IL-5 by day 8 and NIH mice releasing the greatest amount of IL-5. The results indicate that the ‘high responder’ phenotype to intestinal nematode infection is in part determined by host characteristics, but is also determined by the parasite concerned – seen most clearly by the differences between NIH and CBA when infected with T. spiralis and N. brasiliensis. The fact that ‘low responder’ B10 background mice were more resistant to N. brasiliensis than ‘high responder’ NIH implies that each parasite elicits a particular pattern of protective host responses, rather than parasites being differentially susceptible to the same response profile.
(Accepted February 14 2003)