Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Gastroenterology Service, University Hospital, Departments of Surgery and Medicine, Alaska Native Medical Center, Indian Health Service, Arctic Investigations Laboratory, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Zurich, Switzerland
Alveolar echinococcosis is a serious and often fatal disease of humans that in most cases can be efficiently cured only by complete surgical resection of the Echinococcus multilocularis lesion. In a few patients, however, a spontaneous cure of the disease has been observed by demonstrating the presence of lesions with dead metacestodes. The present study shows a comparative analysis of the cellular (lymphoproliferative assay) and humoral (antibody activity in an Em2 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA] and immunoblotting) immune response in 1) patients who were cured by a radical surgical resection of the E. multilocularis parasite lesion, 2) patients who had a partial surgical resection of the parasite lesion, 3) patients who had a non-resectable alveolar echinococosis, and 4) patients who were shown to be spontaneously cured and had lesions with dead parasites. The in vitro lymphoproliferative response to E. multilocularis antigen stimulation was very high in cured patients who had radical surgery or in patients with lesions containing dead parasites, but it was significantly lower in patients who had partial surgical or no resection. Antibody concentrations in the Em2-ELISA were high in patients who had incomplete or no surgery, and low or negative in cured patients who had radical surgery or in patients with lesions containing dead parasites. Immunoblot analysis of patient sera revealed a consistent antibody banding pattern among cured patients with radical surgery and patients with incomplete or no surgery, whereas cured patients with lesions containing dead parasites showed a very faint antibody pattern. The distinct differences in the parasite-specific humoral and cellular immune status between self-cured patients and other patient groups with different courses of alveolar echinococcosis may provide insight into potentially protective immune mechanisms.