Radiation-Resistant Acquired Immunity of Vaccinated Mice to Schistosoma mansoni

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  • 1 Department of Biology, University of York, Heslington, York YO1 5DD, England
  • * Department of Radiobiology, Cookridge Hospital, Leeds L16 6QB, England

Vaccination of mice with attenuated cercariae of Schistosoma mansoni induces specific acquired resistance to challenge infection. This resistance is immunologically-mediated, possibly via a delayed-type hypersensitivity. Studies of parasite migration have shown that the protective mechanism operates most effectively in the lungs of vaccinated mice. We have probed the mechanism by exposing mice to 500 rads of gamma radiation before challenge infection. Our results show that the effector mechanism operative against challenge larvae is resistant to radiation. In contrast, classical immune responses are markedly suppressed by the same treatment. While leukocyte populations in the blood fall dramatically after irradiation, numbers of cells recoverable by bronchoalveolar lavage are unaffected. We suggest that vaccination with attenuated cercariae establishes populations of sensitized cells in the lungs which trigger the mechanism of resistance when challenge schistosomula migrate through pulmonary capillary beds. Although the cells may be partially disabled by irradiation, they remain responsive to worm antigens and thereby capable of initiating the elimination mechanism. This hypothesis would explain the radiation resistance of vaccine-induced immunity to S. mansoni.