Dirofilaria immitis: Studies on Anti-Microfilarial Immunity in Lewis Rats

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  • Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, School of Hygiene and Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

The effect of vaccination on rates of microfilarial clearance using Dirofilaria immitis in male Lewis rats was examined. Animals were immunized with whole, dead microfilariae or a PBS extract of microfilariae in Freund's adjuvant. The immunized animals, as well as untreated and adjuvant controls, were challenged intravenously with 4 × 105 viable microfilariae (mf). The duration of microfilaremia was 15.5 days in rats vaccinated with whole mf, 17.7 days in those vaccinated with a PBS extract, 36.3 days for those vaccinated with adjuvant alone, and >70 days for the untreated group. Analysis of the anti-microfilarial IgG response by ELISA and Western blots demonstrated that immunization induced significant amounts of antibody against high molecular weight peptides, particularly a peptide located at 105 kDa. Antibody levels in both groups of immunized animals continued to rise following challenge, reaching peak levels of 78–80 µg/ml on the day of microfilarial clearance. Decreasing microfilaremia following challenge was associated with an enhanced recognition of low molecular weight peptides.