Reactivity to bacterial, fungal, and parasite antigens in patients with lymphedema and elephantiasis.

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  • 1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Both secondary infections and antifilarial immunity are thought to play roles in the development and progression of lymphedema. To investigate this issue, immune responses to a panel of bacterial, fungal, and parasite antigens were examined for women with lymphedema and elephantiasis (n = 28) and for women with no clinical evidence of lymphatic dysfunction who were either microfilaremic (Mf+, n = 23) or microfilaria- and filarial antigen-negative (Ag-, n = 24). The prevalence and intensity of delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses was similar for most recall antigens; for individual antigens, lymphedema patients were significantly more likely to be reactive only to Proteus. Lymphedema patients with a history of three or more attacks of adenolymphangitis in the last 18 months showed increased DTH reactivity to Trichophyton. Proliferative responses to fungal and bacterial antigens were similar for all three groups; however, antigen-negative women, independent of disease status, mounted greater responses to filarial antigen. In contrast, lymphedema patients had higher levels of antifilarial specific IgG1, IgG2, and IgG3 and higher IgG responses to streptolysin O than either Ag- or Mf+ women. In persons with lymphatic filariasis, immune reactivity is influenced by disease status as well as infection status.