Identification of Onchocerca volvulus Collagen as an Antigen Mainly Recognized by Antibodies in Chronic Hyper-Reactive Onchodermatitis (Sowda)

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  • Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Centro Nacional de Microbiologia, Servicio de Parasitologia, Institut fur Epidemiologische Diagnostik, Federal Research Centre for Virus Diseases of Animals, Department of Immunology, Strathclyde University, Department of Helminthology, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Immunology Division, Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright Laboratory, Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain

An Onchocerca volvulus expression library was differentially screened to identify a molecular marker distinguishing sowda (lichenified onchodermatitis) from other onchocerciasis forms. One clone, PG3, was recognized by pooled sera from patients with sowda, but not by pooled sera from patients with generalized onchocerciasis; it was not recognized by sera from patients with lymphatic filariasis or other helminth infections. The DNA of PG3 hybridized strongly with O. volvulus Eco RI-digested DNA, but not with DNA from Brugia spp., Trichinella spp., and humans. A weak reaction was observed with DNA from O. gibsoni and Acanthocheilonema viteae. The PG3 DNA sequence showed a high homology with both human and nematode collagens. Confirmation of the collagen-like nature of the sowda-specific PG3 product was obtained by amino terminal sequencing of the PG3 expression product, as well as by demonstrating its suceptibility to collagenase digestion. The characteristic recognition of the O. volvulus collagen specified by clone PG3 was confirmed by measuring antibody levels to the expressed product in individual sowda and generalized onchocerciasis sera, respectively. Identification of a nematode collagen antigen mainly recognized in sowda patients raises the possibility that this extreme form of dermatitis might arise through cross-reactivity between anti-O. volvulus collagen antibodies and human collagen. However, a relationship between the PG3 recognition by antibodies and the sowda pathogenesis could not be demonstrated.