Centro de Pesquisas Rene Rachou Fiocruz, Escola de Medicina and Departamento de Parasitologia, ICB, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Instituto de Biofisica Carlos Chagas Filho da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
With the exception of assays for the detection of antibodies promoting complement-mediated lysis of Trypanosoma cruzi, serologic tests have generally failed to assess the effectiveness of chemotherapy for Chagas' disease. Conventional serology, although useful for the diagnosis of infection, is not capable of determining which patients have been cured. Here we demonstrate that a high proportion of antibodies detected by conventional serology (using fixed epimastigotes or trypomastigotes or crude extracts obtained therefrom) are directed against the carbohydrate residue galactosylα1->3 galactose (Galα1->3 Gal), a determinant also recognized by antibodies from noninfected healthy volunteers. In a study of 14 cured patients with long-term followup, we found that the persistently positive reactions detected using conventional serology were largely eliminated following immunoadsorption with melibiose. Because of their wide distribution among microorganisms of intestinal and pulmonary microflora, these carbohydrate determinants may keep stimulating lymphocytes previously primed by T. cruzi Galα1->3 Gal epitopes, thereby accounting for false-positive results in cured patients. Consistent with this proposition, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays performed with two distinct T. cruzi antigen preparations that lack the Galα1->3 Gal epitope, namely purified GP57/51 and trypomastigoteshed antigens, were indeed capable of determining a cure after chemotherapy, albeit to a different degree. Collectively, the data indicate that conventional immunoassays prepared with highly specific T. cruzi antigens can be useful in the assessment of a cure after chemotherapy.