Quantitative and Qualitative Changes in the Humoral Response of Dogs through the Course of Infection with Dirofilaria Immitis

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  • Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, School of Hygiene and Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21205
  • National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20205

The present study compared the humoral response of dogs which developed microfilaremic or occult forms of dirofilariasis following experimental infection with Dirofilaria immitis L3 larvae. Quantitative analysis by ELISA revealed that antibody levels to adult somatic (AS), excretory-secretory (ES), and microfilarial (MF) antigens were highest during the patent phase of infection in dogs with either form of dirofilariasis. Patent sera from dogs destined for occult infections contained anti-AS and anti-MF antibody concentrations of 1,572 and 1,004 µg/ml, respectively, while microfilaremic-bound dogs contained 1,044 and 906 µg/ml, respectively. Chronic sera (430 days post infection) from occult dogs contained anti-AS and anti-MF antibody levels of 982 and 600 µg/ml, respectively, which were higher than in microfilaremic dogs. The antibody response to ES antigen was generally 10-fold less in absolute antibody concentrations at all time points tested. Immunoperoxidase staining of antigens transfered to nitrocellulose revealed the presence of several antigenic proteins which were recognized by occult, and to a lesser extent or not at all, by microfilaremic dogs. Sera drawn from occult-bound dogs 280 days post-infection, a time corresponding to microfilarial clearance (transition phase), contained higher antibody activity to microfilarial proteins weighing 47.5, 42.0, 34.2, and 22.4 kilodaltons compared to the microfilaremic dogs. This difference in antigen recognition became more apparent during the chronic phase of infection.