Determinants for resistance and susceptibility to microfilaraemia in Litomosoides sigmodontis filariasis

W. H.  HOFFMANN  a1 c1, A. W.  PFAFF  a1, H.  SCHULZ-KEY  a1 and P. T.  SOBOSLAV  a1
a1 Institute of Tropical Medicine, University of Tübingen, Wilhelmstrasse 27, D72074 Tübingen, Germany

Article author query
hoffmann w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
pfaff a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
schulz-key h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
soboslav p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Filarial infections of humans are chronic diseases. Despite an ongoing immune response, adult filariae continuously produce their offspring, the microfilariae (Mf), which are able to persist in sufficient numbers to ensure transmission. In this study, host- and parasite-derived factors, which contribute to persistence of Mf, were investigated using the filariasis model of Litomosoides sigmodontis in mice. Different strains of mice were found to differ widely in their capability to eliminate circulating Mf. Studies of congenic mouse strains showed that early and rapid clearance of Mf was mediated by activation pathways relevant to innate immunity, whereas late or delayed clearance of Mf was pre-determined by MHC-related factors. Genetic knock-out of genes for the MHC class-II molecules totally abrogated resistance. Most interestingly, the presence of only 1 adult female, but not male worms, renders all mice susceptible, irrespective of the genetic background, enabling Mf to circulate for extended periods of time. Such prolonged microfilaraemia was also observed in L. sigmodontis-infected animals challenged with heterologous Mf of Acanthocheilonema viteae. The use of cytokine gene knock-out mice showed that persistence of L. sigmodontis Mf was facilitated by IL-10, but not by IL-4 or IFN-γ. In conclusion, irrespective of a resistant or susceptible host genetic background, survival of Mf of L. sigmodontis in mice is decisively regulated by the presence of adult female L. sigmodontis which will skew and exploit immune responses to facilitate the survival and persistence of their offspring in the infected host.

(Received August 2 2000)
(Revised January 11 2001)
(Accepted January 13 2001)

Key Words: Litomosoides sigmodontis; filariasis; congenic and knock-out mice; microfilaraemia; immune modulation; parasite persistence.

c1 Corresponding author: Tel: +49 7071 2982927. Fax: +49 7071 295996. E-mail: