Veterans Administration Medical Center and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Hospital das Clinicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, and the Centro de Pesquisas “Rene Rachou” FIOCRUZ, Nasvhille, Tennessee 37203, Brazil
Thirty-four hospitalized patients and 12 ambulatory patients, all with hepatosplenic schistosomiasis mansoni were evaluated in regard to their peripheral blood mononuclear (PBMN) cell responses to schistosomal antigenic preparations and compared with groups of 40 patients with the hepatointestinal form and 39 patients with the more common, chronic intestinal form of schistosomiasis mansoni. PBMN cell blastogenic responses were measured upon exposure to schistosomal egg antigens (SEA), adult worm antigens (SWAP) and a cercarial antigenic preparation (CERC). All groups had some individuals who did not respond to some or all of these preparations. In the hospitalized hepatosplenic group >50% did not respond to SEA. Analysis of the responses in each group revealed that all responders could be subdivided into moderate and high responders. High responders to SEA had experimental minus control values of >8,000 counts per minute (CPM). For SWAP and CERC, this arbitrary cut-off value was >25,000 CPM and > 11,000 CPM, respectively. The percent of high SEA responders in the groups differed considerably. This was 23% in the chronic intestinal group, 40% in the chronic hepatointestinal group, 67% for ambulatory hepatosplenic patients and 20% for hospitalized hepatosplenic patients. Previous studies had demonstrated that 94% of patients with early (2–3 month) acute schistosomiasis mansoni were high responders to SEA and none were nonresponders. Furthermore, at the other end of the spectrum, 100% of former schistosomiasis mansoni patients (treated and cured 7–35 years previously) were high responders to SEA. None were nonresponders to any of the antigen preparations. It is proposed that during acute infection all patients express vigorous responses to SEA. Upon continued infection most patients (75%) modulate this florid response. However, continued high responders comprise 40% of the chronic hepatointestinal cases and almost 70% of the ambulatory hepatosplenic patients. These latter 2 groups may likely represent early forms of the severe clinical disease found in the hospitalized hepatosplenic patient population. Fifty percent of the hospitalized group appear anergic and no longer respond to SEA, while only 20% are high responders. Long after chemotherapy it appears that the anti-SEA regulatory mechanisms of former chronic patients have subsided, leaving strong anti-SEA responsiveness.